Unfired Clay vs. Fired Clay

This picture shows the comparison of the same pot — unfired Cinco Rojo clay dipped in porcelain slip, and then glazed with a clear glaze and fired at cone 6 (which is 2269 degrees F). There is quite a difference in the color of the clay from unfired to fired–rich, deep red to a chocolate brown. The clear glaze actually seems to accentuate the speckling in the stoneware.








Next time I fire this clay, I think I will take it only up to cone 5 (which is 2205 degrees F — a difference of only 64 degrees.) BigCeramicStore.com has this very useful chart that shows the correlation of temperature to cone number, and also which type of clay “matures” at what temperature. According to this chart, firing this red clay that additional 64 degrees took it beyond its melting point, which could account for the change in color. Not that it isn’t lovely as a chocolate speckled stoneware. It’s just not what I wanted to see.

Calling All Self-Taught Potters …

Linda Fahey has a great formula for the self-taught potter: Have a curious mind, and attend a million workshops! But sometimes workshops are expensive, or too far away. With that in mind, I want to recommend Diana Fayt’s online course, called The Clayer. You can take this class from the comfort of your own home at a GREAT price!Fayt.badge

Diana is a marvelously talented potter who has created a couple of online classes, sharing her knowledge and expertise in surfacing techniques. I have taken both of Diana’s courses, and highly recommend them! She shares so much of herself, and her vast knowledge and experience. PLUS, she’s a great teacher.

I had been wanting to make some plaster molds for awhile, but was too intimidated to do it on my own. In Diana’s course, she walked us through it step by step, and now I’ve made several, and am at ease working with plaster. Sometimes you just need a little push in the right direction! This course also covers the water abrasion surface technique, along with carving and using paper stencils. It’s truly a fabulous bargain for all the techniques you will learn!

Take a look at some of Diana’s work. You can also listen to her interview with Ben Carter on Tales of a Red Clay Rambler, his podcast. Don’t you want to learn from a potter who can make this beautiful work??

dianafaytbowls Fayt.Plates fayt.walltile fayt.triplevase


Warm, Useful, and Beautiful…From Wool to Blanket

The mohair is the shiny, thicker single. The merino is the softer, fuzzier single.

Ta da!  The process still works! Take some beautiful, soft white wool from a merino sheep and some shiny, slick gorgeous white mohair from a goat, spin singles of each, and then ply them together for a lovely length of textured and interesting yarn.

Using US 10 (or larger) needles, knit with a pattern from f.pea for a baby heirloom blanket with a lovely scalloped edge. Add some color–in this case, a skein dyed aqua and salmon from Arabella, handspun thick and thin for extra texture and interest. Keep knitting–in airports, in the car, on lovely evenings at home, to avoid housework, when you should be working, etc.

Functional Art-a simply beautiful blanket

Bind off (loosely!) whenever you want to, or when you run out of handspun yarn. You have now participated in the thousands-year-old ancient collective of outfitting your family with necessary material items.

Archeologists seemed surprised to find intricate beauty when they uncover textiles (or art) from thousands upon thousands of years ago. Their surprise is odd to me–because as long as we have been human, we have infused our material objects with artistic beauty and creativity. This is what it means to BE human.

Useful...and beautiful!

The Beauty of Functional Art

I love visiting my mom’s house in the beautiful Texas hill country.  There seems to be a peace in the hill country all its own–the many clear rivers, the luscious greenery, interesting caves and hills and canyons–the area is a treasure. My mom’s house is a treasure too, a tiny 1911 cottage with a huge yard that she has completely transformed in the twelve or so years she’s lived there.

Mom's 1911 Cottage in the Texas Hill Country

I see now that my mom is truly an artist.  She’s also a mom, and a professor, and a friend, and a colleague, and a writer, and a speaker. I respect and admire all those things about her. But one huge reason I like going to her house is to be in the middle of her artistic expression, and to feel the way it makes me feel. Engaged. Interested. Peaceful. Happy, even. Surrounded by beauty and art.

None of it is “museum art”.  You won’t be impressed with famous names or even pieces that look like they should be in a museum. Her art is truly expressive, mostly folk art and functional art. I mean, she has an antique doll head on top of a plant in a teapot.  Who does this? Well, she does, and it’s fabulous.

My Mom's Folk Art

On the long drive back to my home, I started thinking about how I feel in her house, and why I like her particular style so much. Maybe partly because she’s my mom, and I seem to have inherited her “quirky” gene. But I think it’s mainly because everything in her house feels intentional. Every beautiful or even strange object (like the doll’s head) is placed precisely where she wants it to be, with intent. This feels substantial to me, and I like it. It is artistry.

Functional art intrigues me very much because it represents the creative spirit in all of us (see Angus’ post about Art.) Shaker furniture may be the most recognized example of the best of functional art–pure beauty in its simple lines and curves, the best artistry and craftsmanship in its making, and an enduring statement about incorporating art and beauty into our daily mundane tasks. My mom has a lot of functional art in her home. The plastic cups we drink from are even artfully colorful in her exposed cabinets.

Exposed Cabinets

But there’s a reason they aren’t just plastic cups, but are instead colorful, textured, and perfect for the spot.  The reason is because she’s an artist, and her home is her canvas.

I want to grow up to be just like her.

Everything is Intentional