Impossible Task?

I think I may have set out to do the impossible when declaring earlier this year that I shall make regular blog posts so you REALLY get an idea of “the life o a potter.” With ironic laughter I say to you, oh brother! What was I thinking? I don’t really have THAT much time on my hands. None to spare, actually. My days are filled to the brim right now, especially with my upcoming annual summer sale on June 27 & 28. Also, not many people read my blog, but I get quite a lot of action on my Facebook business page (see sidebar for link) which is where I have been trying something relatively new – chronicling my days in the studio through photos and a few words.
Are blogs a thing of the past? Mine might be.

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Alarming!

For the last two weeks I’ve been trying something new. I’ve planned it so I can spend entire days in the pottery studio without the stress of extra things to do besides making pottery. It’s lovely! And it’s because I’ve dedicated an entire day to get grocery shopping, errands and batch cooking done, and an entire day in the office doing paperwork. So far it has worked out well.

I find that I often plan too many things to do in a given space of time and then when that activity exceeds the time I thought I would need it to complete it, other tasks on my schedule get dropped off pretty quickly and put off to another day. In an effort to be more aware about the passing time (because when I get engrossed in something time seems to stand still), I’ve used the alarm function on my phone. For example: 7:00 a.m. – alarm goes off to wake me and then another is set at 9 a.m. for yoga. The alarm I set for yoga is called “ripples” and is very pleasant rather than jarring. With all the sounds available on phones these days the alarms can be as lovely or annoying as you like.

I have set my alarm to let me know when I need to start dinner, go for a walk, get ready and leave for appointments, etc. When I set those alarms for all of the things I want to do in a day I REALLY started to understand how little time in the day one has for everything one might like to accomplish. This exercise has been both helpful and annoying. Some days it feel like I’ve just begun something and an alarm is going off to signal the start of a new task. It has driven me to turn off the phone for the entire day more than once.

Using this alarm system is something I’ve been doing for about 6 months, off and on because TO DO lists weren’t working for me anymore. But sometimes I just know that a day by alarm isn’t in the cards for me, so I refrain from setting the alarms and use a list instead. On days that I have to be somewhere specific I will use the alarms and stick by them. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from using alarms and lists is that I need to try and accomplish fewer activities and tasks in my day.

A ton of things were accomplished last week (using both lists and alarms) including:
-making new pots; bowls of all sizes and mugs
-a really big grocery shopping trip and a bunch of errands
-cleaning the entire house, 5 loads of laundry, cleaning the wood stove, and batch cooking
-writing two blogs and publishing one
-tax prep, filing, organizing my desk, and scheduling tasks for the next two weeks
-music time with Chris

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Big Bold Blue

Before Yule I fired one last load for 2014 and took a few photos recently. I love this blue. It’s a recipe of Val Cushing’s that I call VCAA Blue. Cushing passed away in November of 2013 and Ceramics Monthly featured him in the magazine in April 2014. On page 68 of that issue there are recipes for many of Cushing’s glazes including the one in this photo. It’s the first recipe listed on the page and is called V.C.A.A. Copper. If you want blue just substitute cobalt carbonate for the copper carbonate. I ran out of cobalt carb though and had cobalt oxide on hand so use that at half the amount.

IMG_1778
Salad/Serving bowl 9.5″ x 2.75″ $60.00

Last week was very busy. I had some rehearsals with Chris for Friday night’s performance, my truck broke down, and both JF and I are still sick with what is probably the one type of flu that wasn’t covered in our yearly flu shot. He’s coughing a lot and needs rest. The weekend was good for getting some rest.

I had a workshop on Saturday with two 11 year old girls from the ‘hood. It was great fun! I took them on a tour of the house, we made tea and then we went for a tour in the pottery gallery so they could pick colours for their projects. We then got down to making some pottery. If the moms agree I will post photos from the workshop in a future blog.

I spent some time in the pottery on Monday and Tuesday working with a lovely dark stoneware called Dark Cal 5 made by Tucker’s. Luckily the weather warmed a bit to allow me to work plus I put the clay up on the work table to warm so the cold, wet clay doesn’t make my hands ache after I work with it. I also limit my time with my hands on wet clay or in the water bucket. The pain I get in my hands after working with the clay is really not fun. It keeps me awake at night and that’s not productive at all.

I love how my shiny white, 50/50, and blue-semi gloss glazes look on Dark Cal 5. I’m excited to be making some large pieces right now. In Saturday’s workshop one of my students wanted to make a snake because she wasn’t really into functional pottery. She said she wanted to create a sculpture. Okay. No problem. Let me think (fast on my feet) for a minute. One requirement was that the snake be no longer than 18″ because that is the shelf size of the big kiln. I usually bisque fire in my 3 cu. ft. kiln but once in a while, when the diameter or length of a piece exceeds 12″ I need to fire it in the 7 cu. ft. kiln which then requires me to produce a HUGE load of green-ware to fill that space.

Here’s a short list of the things that are filling my days…and nights!
*Making a large load of big pots and small pots too, but large centerpiece pots too.
*Making music with Chris. Last night we got together for the first time after our Friday night performance. Our partnership works and we have similar tastes in music. We spent an hour choosing new material and then I taught him a couple of my original songs, one of which is on my CD, “Following Instinct.”
*Blogging – this blog was written in short spurts over the past 3 days. I’m finding it tough to find the time to write more often. I’m doing what I can though. 🙂
*Cleaning up my email inbox, printing out receipts that I need for tax purposes, printing out songs for choir (Thursday nights), and answering email from last year!
*Cooking – Roast chicken on Friday. Big pot of chicken soup on Monday. Today: Quick Rye Bread.
*Working out – walking when weather permits and yoga daily
*Errands and appointments- grocery shopping, banking, eye glass repairs, dentist.
*New job? I need cash flow so I decided to make it known that I darn socks. A neighbourhood friend tells me that people would pay me money to repair their socks. I hear that people just throw their socks out these days. What if they’re really good socks like expensive merino wool thermal socks? Or wool socks grandma made? You should mend those. Don’t know how? I do. Bring me your socks and I will extend their life. My friend Suzanne (see her blog “Womangue” posted on the side bar to the right…scroll up a bit) did the art work for the Darn It! poster. I just sent her the “copy” (words) for the poster today, so I don’t know when I’ll have the finished product, but I’ll post a copy of it here when I do.

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String of Days. January 6 – 10.

Monday night – up very late looking at assisted care info for my parents and writing a lengthy email to my siblings.

Tuesday – slept in until 8 a.m. It’s -29 C on the lake today. Too cold to make pots. Too cold now to walk outside. I’ve got a niggling dry throat too.
Tried to figure out how to get photos from my iPhone onto my new laptop. No success so far. I often wonder what the designers mean by “user friendly.” It should be simple. I plug the phone into the computer and and click on yes when prompted to upload photos to computer. I’m confused when the message on the screen says there are no photos on my phone. There are too. Over 800. Meh! I have to do something else and try to figure it out later. Technology is not my forte. Manual labour is more my thing.
I went online to pay my driver’s license and after a finally getting to the part in the drop down menu where I choose what it is I wish to pay the SAAQ, all selections are in French only. Thanks to Google Translate I figured out that I needed to pay my “permis de conduire.” Most websites in QC are in French only. English is merely a courtesy not extended very often, but at least some government websites try to have an English page.
After all that I found out that my driver’s license can not be paid on line after all. SIGH. I have to make a trip to town for that plus a few more errands. Round trip is 80 minutes plus the time needed to get the errands done.
I wonder what kind of work that I can get done today?
Later…apparently none.
The truck’s transmission is not happy and the heater fan broke today. Now I have no transportation. Gah!!
I talked to my dad and mom is starting to eat a little but now dad is sounding congested and started to cough when we were speaking. Oh dear.

Wednesday – Another cold day is upon us. It’s currently -20 C with a windchill making it feel like -28 C. The temperature is supposed to drop this afternoon and then the winds will pick up to 60 km/hr giving us a windchill of -35 C.
I feel frozen in my chair. I’m wrapped in a big wool blanket and the fire is going but I can feel the wind whipping through the place. We are right on a lake and the northwestern winds hit the length of the cottage. Slowly we are making improvements with insulation.
I decided the best way to get warm was to move so I did. I revisited an old workout DVD and practised yoga.
My parents are constantly on my mind. I have communications with one or both siblings each day. We have to get organized and make a plan. I need to write some email. My mind is completely scattered. I’ve started sorting receipts over on the coffee table, I’m cleaning my desk too, and I’m very aware that there are important things to record in my calendar. There is a pile of stuff on JF’s desk that I need to file.
Communications first.

Thursday – I felt it coming on earlier this week. I definitely have a cold and I’m starting to cough. I also have DOMS from a tough abdominal workout yesterday so I really feel my abs when I cough. Ouch.
It was -35 C this morning at 7:00. I have no idea what the windchill was. Five hours later it has “warmed up” to -23. That’s pretty amazing if you think about it. This cold (outside and the one in my chest) is a best treated with sitting in front of the fire under a wool blanket. The reality is when one is sick one needs to rest.
Talked to mom today. She is up and doing dishes and eating a bit more. That’s good news.
Tax receipts were sorted and bundled yesterday and the filing was done. The desk is clean-ish. I think I’ll defrost a chicken so I can make chicken soup on the weekend.

Friday – Thank goodness! The weather has turned for the better. A paltry -10 C at 8:00 a.m. Other good news – our sort-of-feral cat pooped in the litter box! Yay! She’s getting old. Fourteen this year. She’s very outdoorsy and had needed to recently be re-trained to use the box. We had a different box last year, and you know how that goes with cats. Something different = possible threat to cat’s life. I’m not sure how the cat can perceive a litter box as a threat, but that is what I’m told. I’ve observed her jumping 5 feet straight up into the air at the sight of a leaf on the deck, so yeah, new box = threat to life.

My cold isn’t too bad today. I’m not done with sneezing and blowing, but I have some energy so I shoveled snow for over an hour. There’s more to do but I was too tired to continue. We sure got a lot of snow last night. The trees are weighted down with ice and now this thick layer of lovely, clean snow. It’s very pretty.

ice

I’ve been quite busy all day long with all sorts of things – dishes, recycling, compost, cooking, planning, social media for business and I even got a little surprise. I found out my friend’s son, Jude is having a photographic exhibition on Friday, January 16 at Cafe des Artistes in Buckingham. I’ve been invited to come and sing a few songs. Once upon a time I was a rock star. Actually, I wanted to be one, but it didn’t happen. I suppose the closest I got was “troubadour who released one CD.” But that was years ago. Man, I am rusty! I hope I don’t embarrass myself.

Saturday – Sinuses blocked. I slept with my mouth opened for a good part of the night and woke up feeling like I had been in the desert (on a horse with no name) with my mouth opened to catch all the dry, hot air. I thought I was getting better but I feel extremely tired this morning and not really motivated to move.
Temperature on the lake at 9 a.m. was -26 C.
Errands in town today – groceries, heater fan for the truck, kitty litter, return DVDs to rental place. After that I’m going to cook something akin to winter comfort food (Green Lentil Dahl maybe) and huddle under the wool blanket on the couch for the night. Tomorrow I’m getting together with Chris to see what tunes we can work up for Jude’s photo exhibit.

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Cold Snap

Yesterday it snowed, then rained and then snowed again. The temperatures dipped down below -20 Celsius. Currently it is -21 C with a windchill of -30 C.

The first thing I usually do in the morning is eat a bowl of homemade granola and Greek yogurt and then JF and I head out to the forest reserve for a short hike or snow shoe. When we get back home I head out for a walk of about 45-60 minutes along the country roads and then settle into my yoga practise. Exercise is done by 10 or 10:30 and then I head into the studio.

On cold mornings such as this I tend to want to stay in bed under the heavy quilt which I did until 7:30. We missed our walk, but we did it on purpose. It’s far too cold this morning for outdoor exercise. I decided to start this blog, place a vitamin order online and check my email.

It’s nearly 10 a.m. and I still haven’t ventured outside. Maybe later.

Yesterday, my last day of vacation (I take 2 weeks off from the Winter Solstice until the first Monday in January to rest and recharge) I decided to clean the house. I dusted, vacuumed, washed floors and dishes and then made a Mexican Feast for dinner. I found a recipe for “Batter Tortillas” in a Betty Crocker cookbook that I acquired in my 20’s and rediscovered in my 40’s when I spied a copy of the same cookbook at a friend’s place. It’s not, in any way, an authentic tortilla recipe, but I find it easy and I enjoy the taste. I don’t like 100% corn tortillas and I do not eat wheat, so buying tortillas is not for me. These batter tortillas are easy enough to prepare with 2 parts spelt flour and 1 part corn meal, but they do take time to cook because I can only cook one at a time. It’s completely worth it though. What we did not eat was placed in the freezer. I’m big on batch cooking and freezing. I love cooking, generally and yes, my cupboards are filled with pottery. Most of it my own. I enjoy the way food looks on pottery. It’s so rustic and homey.

I also prepared (from scratch) refried beans, guacamole, spiced ground turkey and caramelized onions and peppers. We topped the “burritos” with grated organic old cheddar, tomatoes and lettuce. BURP!! Yeah, it was really good and it’s what’s for lunch too. 😀

The sun is shining and I am very tempted to go out for some fresh air, even if I don’t get very far. The snow shoes are right by the door and the lake has not been trod upon yet this winter. JF saw a skater speed by a few days ago though!

The studio feels fairly toasty and I have good light today, so I shall spend some time in there photographing new pots, cleaning up and I will also spend an hour or two on tax prep.

Later…
I lasted only 10 minutes outside with my glasses fogging up and my fingers getting so cold they started to hurt. I have crappy mittens. I wish for leather ones that cut the wind and that are fur lined. Wouldn’t that be something? I got my cardio workout done indoors followed by a great yoga practise.

I was in the studio photographing goblets and I decided to call my parents. My mom will be 80 in August and my dad is turning 82 in May. They still live in the home they bought as newlyweds in 1955. My mom has had the flu for a week now and I decided to call to see how she’s doing.

Mom is a type 2 diabetic and a couple of years ago she had a small stroke that didn’t do a lot of damage. She mixes up a few words here and there, but other than that she seems okay. My dad has sciatica that has him using a walker right now and so my mom had been taking care of both of them until she came down with the flu.

She was at the hospital last week – they went to emergency because I thought that my mom’s speech was a bit slurred when I was talking with her, so I called my brother and he got them to the hospital. It could have been another stroke, but it wasn’t. She was sent home with the diagnosis of influenza.

When I called dad answered and said the paramedics were there and they were waiting for an ambulance. What?! My guess is that because my dad is using his walker and mom is so sick, that it would have been impossible for him to take her to the hospital on his own. He must have been really worried about her to have called for an ambulance. I live in Quebec, my sister in BC and my brother in rural Manitoba. Our parents are in Winnipeg. Dad said he’d call later tonight when he knew more, but really there was nothing he could tell me. He seemed rather confused…or in shock. Poor dad. I really feel for him.

After that call I was feeling very distracted. I called my sister to let her know what was going on and took a few more photos of new blue spiral ware. Then there was a knock on the door. Wood was being delivered. I had forgotten. I helped the delivery guy by opening and closing the door as he loaded wood into the house. We buy recycled wood “logs” – basically hardwood sawdust that is compressed into a log. They burn more efficiently and are better for the environment. It’s a lot cleaner in the house too. One time we bought a load of wood that was pretty wet and covered in green mold. That was gross and then we found these recycled logs.

Back in the pottery I priced some pots that had been unloaded from the glaze kiln just before I took my winter break. I put the new pottery in the gallery and cleaned up a bit in the workshop and put the photographic lights away thinking the whole time about mom and sending her good energy.

Many texts and phone calls and email have been flying between siblings today. The tax prep will have to wait.

I got a call from my mom tonight. She is home from her visit to the hospital. After all the tests the doctor said that she has a strain of influenza that wasn’t covered by the general flu vaccine that she received. She sounds much better than when I spoke to her last week. As mom put it, it has been determined by the health professionals that she will indeed get through this.

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January 3rd, 2015 – Preparing for The Storm

An appropriate title for today as there is a storm warning and I’m returning to the pottery on January 5th to start new work for the year.

It’s Day 13 of my vacation and as I near the completion of it I am drawn into thinking about work even when I have vowed not to do so, yet it seems to me that waking up on Monday without a clue of what to do first, is foolish. I have a list of suggestions like “inventory” and “tax prep” and “new work” and “reading day.” “Clean workshop” is also on the list.

The thing is, I’m not really interested in either the snow storm brewing or another storm of pottery-making. I’ve had my fill of working like mad to meet a deadline that is unrealistic for me to meet in the fashion in which I would like to meet any deadline: with a solid collection of 2-3 styles of great quality stoneware pottery made for every day living.

I can only achieve this goal if I give myself time and 3 months isn’t enough time, so I plan to skip spring art and craft sales in the city (Ottawa/Gatineau). My work cycle is about 6-8 weeks but I also must include time from January to April for inventory, tax preparations, lesson planning and teaching pottery workshops and classes. No, three months isn’t enough time right now. My pottery stock is depleted. I want to present a great collection at my summer sale at my home gallery in June and then keep adding to it throughout the rest of the “making season” (July – November) when I will present my pottery again at my own gallery sale on the Thanksgiving long weekend in October followed by the many fine local art and craft shows from November 2015 – December 2015.

January is usually the worst month for pottery-making because it’s cold. When it’s very cold outside chances are that the clay will be too cold to work. Boxes of clay sit on the cement floor of the workshop and even though the workshop is heated, the clay can be too cold to work and give me terrible pains in my hands. If it’s too cold then I have to do something else and there is no shortage of something else to do. There is always something to clean, for example, I need to clean the kiln shelves – scrape off the old, flaking kiln wash from the shelves and apply fresh kiln wash afterwards. I usually need to recycle clay and there is always marketing to do and a growing list of website improvements and photos of the new pottery to take.

I have a private workshop booked for Jan. 17, so the first thing on my list is to make the workshop an inhabitable space for a couple of young artists to come and do some work. I love teaching. I have a lesson plan already worked out. I’m happy to start the new year with the thought of passing along some clay skills to the new generation of “maybe an artist one day!”

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The Real Life

My blog is titled The Life of a Potter, but I don’t write often enough for you to really get a taste of what I do, my creative process, the challenges I face, the fears I have, or the accolades I’ve received.

I’ve thought about this for a few weeks now and have decided that I’m interested in sharing as much of my day as I can so that through this blog you can get a realistic idea of what it’s like to be a potter.

I can not yet say that I can live off my income from making art, but this is way beyond being a hobby. When I am asked what I do for a living I say that I’m an artist.

I am exceedingly thankful that I have a partner who has a good job. It’s a rare gift to be able to make art and not have to spend most of my day working for someone else. I’m lucky. I know.

I think that art is important. In fact, both JF and I think art is important. I think that often we tell ourselves that we don’t have time to make art, but art is a process that takes time and sadly, in our instant world “taking time” often seems out of the question. Yet there are some processes that can not be rushed and it takes time whether you wish it to or not.

The process of making pottery is fascinating to me, and I hope it is to you too. It’s a lengthy process and it’s my goal to share the process with you. Not only am I an artist and a potter, I also run a business, create things from scratch, run a household, pursue hobbies, have a social life, and manage to stay happy and healthy too.

If you’ve read past blogs you already know a bit about me:
I end up doing a lot of things myself because I can and because I think that developing new skills is important. For example I’ve constructed my own display boxes that double as packing crates and I make my own signs. Here’s a blog about making my newest signs:
http://blog.lmserafin.com/?s=how+I+made+my+own+sign

As you can see, I’m the type of gal who would rather have fabric to make my own clothes than buy off the rack, yarn to knit my own sweaters and a cow to milk so I can make my own yogurt, butter and cheese. I do most of my cooking from scratch including a rather recent foray into making my own Greek yogurt. I would grow a vegetable garden in the summer if the yard got enough sunlight. But my garden is part shade so I grow hostas, some irises, lilies that always stretch south east as the sun climbs in the sky then passes behind the hills. I also can grow some herbs like lavender, oregano, lemon balm and bee balm.

My life is full and I made it that way because I like the experience of doing things for myself. Sometimes I end up saving a buck or saving time. Mostly I learn something new. I guess I’m a little old fashioned. (I still have a fondness for dial phones, VCR’s and tape decks.) Sometimes doing things the way I do them is out of necessity and sometimes it’s just my preference.

Right now I’m taking some time off from work to rest and recharge from a very busy 2014. It was a year full of very intense work and travel. When I come back to the pottery workshop in January I will start posting a little something and I hope to do that almost every day.

Thanks so much for dropping by my blog and buying my art. I appreciate the support. I could not have done it without so many pottery lovers out there! Thank goodness you appreciate clay.

All the Very Best of the Holiday Season. May 2015 being you much joy.
Lisa-Marie

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Artisan and Craft Shows Right Around the Corner

It’s been a beautiful fall! It was so colourful out here in the woods. Most of the leaves have fallen off of the trees now and only the Beech tree leaves are hanging on, golden brown and rustling in the wind.

In the pottery I’m glazing 7 pointed star tree decorations. Every one of them is a unique piece, never to be repeated twice. It is impossible to replicate a piece when making things by hand and one-by-one. Each star is hand cut and after the stars are bisque fired I paint on layers and layers of glaze for an amazing and dazzling finish.

Here’s an example of some I’ve made in recent years.

Doves and 7 pointed star, "Star Brite."  White earthenware with layered glazes and bursting crystal glaze centre.

Doves and 7 pointed star, “Star Brite.” White earthenware with layered glazes and bursting crystal glaze centre.

For November and December I’ll be at 4 artisan and craft sales in the Ottawa/Gatineau region.

The first one is on Saturday, November 8 at Buckingham Elementary School, 615 rue Georges. The sale starts at 9 a.m. and goes until 4 p.m. Last year there was no craft sale in Buckingham, but this sale is sure to get you started on the right foot where gift shopping is concerned. There will be artisans there who make jewelry, wood sculptures, home decor, knitwear and of course I’ll be there with my pottery. Proceeds from the table rentals (a fee that we artisans pay to be there) go to the school for various student activities. It’s a win-win! Come out and support local art!

On Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., I will be at the Ottawa Valley Crafts and Collectibles (OVCC) Christmas event “Joy!” at The Library and Archives Building at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa. The charity we are supporting is the Ottawa Senators Foundation. To see who is selling at this artisan event, go here:
http://www.ovccshow.com/
“The 2014 OVCC | Artisans @ Archives Christmas Art & Craft Extravaganza”

On Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, the 30th from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. I’ll be at the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Boulevard in Ottawa’s east-end, for Baz’Art – The Holiday Show and Sale along with 32 other artists and artisans. http://shenkmanarts.ca/en/calendar_calendrier/november_novembre_2014/bazart/index.htm

And for my big finale I will be at MAC Fair on Saturday, December 6 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. MAC Fair is held at Immaculata High School, 140 Main St., Ottawa ,in the gym and there will be 100 crafters and artisans there! Tune in to http://www.macfaircrafts.com/event-details.html
for more details.

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Fall Open House Thanksgiving weekend 2014

On Sunday, October 12 and Monday, October 13 the pottery doors are OPEN, as in OPEN HOUSE. I’m hoping that the weather will be nice enough to have refreshments and to display things outside. So far the forecast is looking fabulous!

I’ve been baking lemon scones. They’re pretty tasty. Gotta bake more today! And I’ve been thinking of making something chocolaty too. 🙂

1487742_743188352366914_272845241_o (1)

Here’s the “official” scoop:

Come and see what’s been happening at the pottery over the summer at the Fall Open House at Mayo’s only pottery, Poterie LM Serafin Pottery.

Experience the gorgeous countryside of West Quebec in all of it’s fall splendor and enjoy new works being presented – the fruits of this summer’s hard work in the pottery studio. It’s the perfect time to start collecting or adding to your collection of pottery by Lisa-Marie.

For two days over the Thanksgiving long weekend – Sunday October 12th and Monday October 13th from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. you can watch Lisa-Marie in action as she gives demonstrations on the potter’s wheel. You can also tour her pottery studio and see how pottery gets made; from a lump of wet clay to a finished piece. You can even try your hand at making a pot, so let your creative side come along for the ride!

There will be refreshments (coffee, tea, home baked treats) and you can enter your name into the draw to win a $50 gift certificate to spend at Poterie LM Serafin Pottery.

Mark your calendar and come on up and enjoy a weekend trip to the little pottery in the woods, Poterie LM Serafin Pottery on Sunday October 12th and Monday October 13th from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m both days.

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Spring Cleaning All Year Round

I don’t often write pottery blogs, but have meant to all along. We get caught up in work these days, don’t we? Being self-employed isn’t easy. Well, part of it is. It’s really easy to be hard on myself and take 100% of the blame if things aren’t going well. It’s also easy to think of myself as being lazy for not getting around to certain jobs like marketing or writing blogs. It’s easy to get down on myself if I’m behind in the grunt work that is ever present in a studio. It’s easy to feel guilty when I stop to rest, eat, practice yoga, take a walk or tend to my garden.

A lot of things got put aside this year while I attempted to make quite a lot of custom ordered dinner plates – a total of 28 plates – in a 8 month period. I’m not quite done yet. It’s a cinch to make the plates. What is taking so long is the firing of said plates. It’s slow going when you have one 3 cubic foot kiln for bisque firing and one 7 cubic foot kiln for glaze firing.

Every time I open a new issue of Ceramics Monthly and see some potter’s expansive studio space I am truly envious. My workshop is 2/3 of a standard garage that was built in the 70’s. The front 1/3 of the garage (which was converted to studio space in 2003) is where I have my gallery. Two or three customers can shop comfortably. It’s very…quaint…and we all know that that’s just another word for teeny weeny.

I’m really “into” working with what I have. I have a small studio and small kilns and that’s just the way things are and it could change if win the lottery!

Things have clearly gotten out of hand in my wee studio. How? You may ask. Well, I have a thing for trying to improve my pottery and that entails trying out a new clay bodies and new glazes. My interest lies in working with the clay body. I’m less interested in the decoration on a pot and instead spend my time on the architecture of making a great pot. Usefulness is key for me. It has to be useful or it doesn’t really spark my interest.

Clay takes up space and so do large buckets of glaze. Even many smaller buckets of glaze take up space. Give me a bucket and I will make some glaze. A girl can never have too much colour in her life, right? Glazes provide not only colour but visual textures, depth, a sensation to the touch – some glazes are smooth and velvety and some are glossy and glass-like while others can be dry, rough, or even bumpy. With any experimentation you will have things that don’t work out, and I have many buckets of glaze mistakes that need to be discarded, so that is something that I started to clean up this summer. Yay!

Experimenting with different glazes is something that I will always enjoy, so for now I’m just cleaning up so I have room for more experimental glaze buckets in the future.

The biggest news here is that I’m dropping a few types of clay that I presently use. If you’re a collector of my pottery you might want to know which ones in case you were thinking of adding to your collection.

Right now I’m working with a red earthenware clay, porcelain, four different types of high fire stoneware a mid fire buff stoneware, and a mid fire white stoneware. That is far too many clay types for my small space. There are scrap clay buckets lining one wall of my studio. There are lots of glaze buckets too as well as bags of raw glaze materials that are taking up valuable floor space that I could use to walk on, ya know? It’s a bit of an obstacle course in the workshop.

The red earthenware has long been on my mind as a clay that I would like to phase out, so that one is first to go. I love the colour and I love working with the smooth buttery clay on the wheel, but in my opinion while earthenware clay is incredibly useful for many things it isn’t very durable. Earthenware is a soft, porous clay so it can chip easily if you don’t take care.

In its defense earthenware clay is good for many things. It keeps things cool and moist if the clay pot is made wet, as in the case of a wine cooler. You can fill a wine cooler with cold water, let it sit for a few minutes, pour out the water and insert your bottle of vino and your wine will be cool til the last drop. If you’re in a hurry, grab a handful of ice from the freezer and toss it in the wine cooler and you are good to go! The ice will melt and the cold water will get sucked up by the earthenware clay keeping your wine cool.

Earthenware is the only clay I use for the “fixer upper” wine cups I make. As you can see in the photo below, the cups are unglazed except for the edge where your lip meets it. That part is glazed so it feels nice on your lips, but if the interior were glazed that would defeat the purpose of the cup. You see, the unglazed clay is very useful at making crappy wine taste pretty good. How? When the wine comes in contact with the porous clay body it takes the edge off. The acid from the wine is absorbed by the porous clay.

carved wine cups2

If you have one of my wine cups you’ve probably done a taste test at my suggestion. Try the wine in glass and then in the earthenware cup. There is definitely a difference, and a good one at that. In addition to the wine cups I have also made wine jugs for decanting wine. The same principle applies.

Earthenware can keep things dry which is why I use it to make garlic jars. I’ve made a lot of garlic jars and glazed them and then used them as intended. I usually ended up with rotted or moldy garlic. This never happens to my garlic now because I keep it in my earthenware jar.

Garlic jars cut2

The wine cups, coolers and jars only account for a tiny portion of my sales, so once the last wad of red earthenware is gone, that’s it. I used my up my last bag of red earthenware clay yesterday, but I recycle my scrap clay (the stuff that goes into the splash pan around the wheel as well as trimmings) which will yield another 20-30 lbs of that clay. It will take about a year to phase out the red earthenware, so get it while you can.

Next time: More clay types that I’m phasing out PLUS how to recondition dried up blocks of clay.

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