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New Bronze and Brown Canister Set

24 Dec

Here’s a great canister set I recently finished for a new friend!


Canister Set

1 Jun

Set of Canisters

I was recently commissioned to make a set of canisters, and here they are at their inception. I also shot a video of the throwing of them, which I’ll post a little later — maybe tomorrow. These canisters will be paddled square, carved with geometric designs, and adorned with an elk motif. I believe they’ll be ready to carve by tomorrow sometime, and I’ll post some more photos then. 🙂

A Square Canister from the Potter’s Wheel

19 May

Well, not completely square, it’s true, but square enough to give it some style and to allow it to sit up nice and cozy with its brother and sister canisters. It doesn’t hold quite as much as it could have, if left round, but there are definite advantages to being a square.

At an angle, taken from above.

I order to make the square sides, I paddled the canister with, well, a paddle. You have to do this at just the right stage. If you try too soon, the pot is all wet and sticky and flabby. It doesn’t work well if you wait too long, either, because the clay cracks when you start to form it. Then you have to spend time sticking things back together. I know these things from having done them wrong so many times!

Side one . . . three to go.

It’s hard for me to resist doodling on my pottery, as you can see. I don’t think I like the little dots down on the bottom right, but changing it at this point is not an option :lol:. I get carried away sometimes. This piece was an experiment, so I don’t mind so much that it didn’t turn out perfectly. I’ll most likely keep it for myself, and I can turn this side to the wall!

A bit of a swirl here . . .

Now this side I like. I think I’d like it better if I’d continued the little lines inside the wider swirl the rest of the way around, but it’s not bad if I do say so. That’s the thing about doodling with a pen; you can always add more. Not so much with clay — not after you put it in the kiln, anyway.

Side number three . . .

Now this one is really nice. Well balanced and interesting. It has a focal point and it’s not too busy. I’ll have to remember to keep this in mind for next time. 🙂

This one looks a bit like a bird’s head to me.

The surface here looks a little more matte. In real life, it’s just like the other sides, though. Maybe the sunlight has changed. At any rate, it seems to me to go well with the swirly design next to it. These two sides are my favorites, for sure.

Here are the bottoms.

I like to cut off my pottery from the bat (the surface on top of the potter’s wheel platform) with a ballpoint pen spring stretched between two handles. It gives it a cool pattern, as you see.

And here are the tops.

And finally, the inside of the canister and the top of the lid. Now you know this pot almost as well as I do myself! Maybe I’ll do another one and post some photos of the process in making it.

Blessings, Cindy

An Artistic Gardening Project

18 May

My mom has decided she wants a garden. No, not radishes and snap beans — the kind of garden where you have an ornate metal bench and a water feature and (hopefully) a little bit of shade to sit and read and watch the birdies chirp, etc. 😉 So we ordered some tall black metal fence panels from Menard’s and borrowed a tiller from one of the brothers in our church. It was his dad who actually handed over the tiller — from his truck tailgate to mine — and he looked worried when he did it. He took quite a long time explaining to me how the tiller worked and trying to impress on me just how hard it was going to pull . . . but words can’t convey a thing like that.

I managed to go over the proposed 12′ x 18′ garden plot three times, lowering the tiller blades each time, but my muscles turned into noodles after that. So I quit for the day. When evening rolled around and I still couldn’t lift my hands (okay, that’s a teensy exaggeration), I called my brother and let him know he’d be tilling Mom’s garden in the morning. Hey, at least he didn’t have to do the hard part, cutting through all that million year old sod!

So for all of you who’ve always wondered what it looks like to till a garden plot with a rear tine tiller, this is your lucky day. I remember seeing ads in the Mother Earth News for tillers where a beautiful, slightly built lady is walking along beside the tiller, guiding it with one hand. It wasn’t quite like that . . .

It’s a good thing we didn’t decide to make a huge vegetable garden. I think if I ever do that, I’ll rent a tractor! Only the growing season up here on the mountain is too short to grow much of anything besides thistles and pine cones. Now for the fun part — figuring out the garden layout. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Gearing up for Summer

11 May

Odds and Ends

I’m going to market! Market Square in Rapid City, SD is holding a weekly farmers’ market and I got invited to participate. I won’t be selling beets or bananas or beans, but if you want pottery and maybe a bit of art, stop by and say hello. The farmers’ market runs from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Hope to see you there!

Big Purple Onion

3 Mar

Big Purple Onion

My daughter came over yesterday and we each painted a version of this still life (comprised of stuff from the pantry and ‘fridge, arranged in one of my pottery bowls ) using Prismacolor colored pencils.

I didn’t get to scan hers before she left, but here’s mine. It’s on 9 x 12 Strathmore bristol vellum. I didn’t like the background as it was, so I melted it with some turpenoid, which I think has helped at least a little bit.

Choosing an Electric Kiln

23 Jul

Electric Kiln Firing

I just came across an article, “An Introduction to Electric Kilns,” on the Ceramic Arts Daily site that I think may be helpful to some of my readers. If you’re interested in pottery/ceramics, you may want to explore and/or subscribe to this site. They always have loads of interesting and helpful information.


13 Feb

Now here’s a concept. Got no time for creative expression (aka: art)? How about a twinchie — a 2″ x 2″ postage stamp of a painting/collage/sketch/whatever-you-like which is perfect for attaching to a home-made greeting card, a magnet for a fridge or anyplace else that a teeny-tiny work of art would be welcome. Here are a set of them that I made yesterday evening and this morning for a swap event. The theme of the swap is “Local Flavor,” and the guideline was to make your twinchies reflect some aspect of your area of residence. People often visit western South Dakota (USA) for the sake of our wildlife, so I chose to illustrate a few local denizens.


Stargazing Whitetail Deer

Running Deer

American Bison 2

American Bison 1

Cow Pony

Watercolor Wildflowers

17 May

Last year, when there was Summer, I took lots and lots of photos of wildflowers. These are two of them.

After drawing these flowers in pencil (on Strathmore 5 x 7 cold press card blanks), I masked them off. When the masking fluid was dry, I wet the paper, allowed the sheen to fade, then dropped in brushloads of foliagy colors. When it had spread a little, I laid a sheet of plastic wrap in the wet paint, crinkled it up a bit, and left it to dry.

Gunnison's Mariposa Lily

I was very happy with the way this lily turned out. Unfortunately, my mom saw it and now it’s in her house. Oh well. I’ll paint another one.

Dames' Rocket

This one was a learning experience. I didn’t draw all the flowers quite in perspective, and I didn’t make the background dark enough. I had to go back in and darken it, and then it was difficult to keep the paint from getting pushed into my flowers by the plastic wrap. Oh well. I’ll paint another one. 😉

Blessings, Cindy

Fairy Houses

24 Oct

Well, it’s been AGES since I posted here. Busy summer, lots of good stuff, a little–um–less than good stuff–life. Here are some pictures of my daughter and a friend making fairy houses. We also made this project with our class of little girls, but kids’ classes being what they are, we were too busy to take pictures of that. When the kids’ fairy houses come out of the kiln, I might post some pictures of them, too.

Because it’s so difficult for little kids (and others) to make a decent coiled pot, I’ve thrown on the wheel and bisque fired a number of forms for them to use. Coiled or puzzled pots are easy to make either on the inside of these bisqued forms, or on the outside.

coiling on a formIf you decide to throw some forms, either for your own use or for teaching others, be sure you make the walls slope outward slightly, and make them ABSOLUTELY straight. Use a rib or a slat of wood to make sure.  If the walls curve inward at any point, it can make removing your coiled pot very difficult.

In the photo, you see my daughter in the process of adding a coil. I have the kids start these pots by making a pancake-shaped slab with their hands, beating and throwing it on the canvas table cloth. It should be a bit larger than the base of the form they’ll be using, and maybe 1/4 to 3/8″ thick. Coiled pots tend to get S cracks in the base, and this helps to prevent that from happening. Snug the slab over the base of the bisque form. If there’s too much time between this step and the next (adding the first coil), you’ll want the kids to score the edges of the slab and paint on a little bit of water. I DO NOT use slip for this, as the slip tends to stick the pot to the form.

making coil

The coil in the photo is about right for a nice, thin pot, but if the kids make theirs twice this diameter and all lumpy, that will work almost as well. Watch them closely, as they’ll tend to smooth the outside edge of the coil down to the bisque form, creating a knife edge. You want the edge nice and fat–at least 1/4″. You don’t need to keep scoring as you go along. It’s enough to score the edge of the pancake. This pot needs to be finished in one sitting, because the bisque form will dry the clay out even if you wrap it in multiple layers of plastic. I just add the coils in a spiral as I move down the mold/form, and when I run out, I make another coil and add it in where I finished the last one.  If it takes a long time to start adding the next coil, you could score just the bottom (leading) edge of the pot and paint on water before starting to add the next coil.

Don’t let the pot go too long, though, especially if you’re working on the outside surface. The clay you’re adding can shrink and then you’ll have to cut your pot to get it off the form–Bummer! One thing, though–if this does happen, try just cutting the door for your fairy house. That may be enough to release the  pot, and it could save you having to stick the whole thing back together.

When you get to the bottom of the form, cut off any excess with a needle tool held perpendicular to the wall of the pot. Just drag the needle tool right around, using the lip of the form as your guide–no need to saw. It will slice right through and make a smoother cut if you do this in a smooth motion. You should now round the edges (both the outside one and the inside one–(next to the form)). Gently pinch the edge just a little bit between your fingers to give it a rounded contour. Don’t stretch it out!

TextureBefore you take your pot off the bisque form, add any textures you would like. The pot in the picture was textured with a tree bark mold someone made of rubber mold-making compound. You can also use texture stamps–either purchased or homemade and bisque fired, natural items such as rough rocks or sea shells or bark, etc. You can use fondant rollers (look in the cake decorating section of your craft store), lace or other textured fabrics . . . the list of possibilities is endless. Access your imagination and have a look round the house or classroom or back yard.

Once you’ve added the texture, you can remove the pot from the bisque form. Hold the end of the pot with one hand and have your other hand inside the form. Give a little shake or twist or rap, and if the pot hasn’t shrunk too much, the form will slip right out. If you need some help, don’t be shy about asking. Sometimes two sets of hands are better for this job–especially if your form (and hence your pot) is large and difficult to hold. Gently set the pot down on its open end. Since you’re making a fairy house, this will be right side up. If you’re making something else–a flower pot, for example, you can set it on its bottom.

At this point, I have the little kids “glue” their fairy houses to a textured slab to form the fairy’s yard. This makes it harder to eventually light up the fairy house, but it does stabilize the base of the pot and makes it easier for the kids to work with the project. I have them cut their “yard” into a free-form shape a little bigger than the fairy’s house. They like to add mushrooms and things to it. I use a 3/8″ thick slab for this, and I let the kids choose a texture and feed it through the slab roller. If you haven’t got a slab roller, that’s okay, but I’d have some slabs rolled ahead for the kids to texture if you want them to finish their house in one session.

ChimneyThe fairy house needs a chimney. You can make one from a slab rolled into a tube, or you can make a marshmallow-shaped piece of clay and then poke a hole in it from end to end with the handle of a paintbrush or whatever’s available. With your paintbrush handle, enlarge the hole while thinning out the walls a bit and voila! You have a fairy chimney. Cut a little hole in the roof–wherever you want to let smoke from your votive candle escape–and attach the chimney on the edges of the hole. Or if you prefer, you can attach the chimney and then poke the hole. Don’t forget to scratch and moisten both edges where they’ll be attached. (The brown strip you see on the table in the above photo is the tree bark mold Cheri used to texture her fairy house and chimney.)

Locating ChimneyHere you have a photo of Cheri’s friend, Emily, deciding where the chimney of her fairy house will sit. Once you’ve decided where you want it, mark it by tracing lightly around it with a pointed object like a needle tool or a sharp pencil. That way you know where to score and poke the hole. 🙂 In the upper left, the purple thing you see is a fondant roller with which Emily textured her fairy house.

WindowsYou can now decorate and add windows, doors, etc. Remember to score and moisten and firmly attach all additions. Cheri eventually put her door on top, since she figured the fairy would want to fly in and out, and it would make for a more secure perimeter. Of course, those are pretty big windows . . . .  If you want to insert a votive candle, make sure the kids make at least one opening that will be big enough (and don’t forget that your clay will shrink–ask the supplier for specific percentages). Otherwise, you can cut a hole through the slab inside the house so that you could just set it down over the candle–in the same manner as these open-based houses will be used.

When the houses are finished, I’ll post some more photos as an update. Meantime, here’s a fairy house made from a pinch pot that I formed into a pumpkin shape.

Pumpkin House