Something Old or Something New?

Back when I first started producing planters in quantity, I had developed a series of texture patterns. Each pattern used my handmade stamps and/or found objects to create a design.

There was tire tracks that used a small wheel I had found. And sunflower that used my stamps and rollers. And … so many that I eventually built up a list of twenty or so patterns I rotated through. I made many planters in this style until I switched firing temperatures a couple of years ago. Once I switched, my textured planters became fewer and glaze designs like subway lines and seedlings stole the spotlight.

My original designs all featured a chrome oxide wash to add depth to the bare clay texture and then glaze in only a few select parts of the pattern. The oxide wash doesn’t have the same look and feel at the temperature I fire at now so I’ve largely either changed to all over glaze for texture pieces or simply stopped creating them.

Until this most recent round in the studio when I was playing around with a large nut/bolt I found sometime ago.

As I was stamping the clay, I realized that I might not need a glaze design in the negative space. That maybe I just needed to either leave the texture or the background free of glaze. Just like I used to do (although without the oxide wash) … wide sections of bare clay making the texture pattern pop.

I think it worked out, but I’ll let you be the judge.

Check out this piece and others in my online shop.

Personalize Your Clay Cutters

You can never have enough clay tools IYKYK.

Today I’m going to share one of the ways I make personalized cookie cutters for clay jewelry, but really for any time you need a unique, small cutter.

Tools Mentioned

  • Safety Glasses – find ‘em here
  • Tin Snips – feels just like using a power tool here
  • Masking a Tape

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

Floating Ceramic Pendants

I’m having so much fun sharing jewelry tips with everyone! Today I’m sharing an easy way to make your pendants so you need fewer jewelry findings after firing – always a good thing in my book!

Tools Mentioned

  • Wooden Skewer – definitely check the dollar store or here
  • Pin Tool – an example here
  • Smoothing Rib – an example here
  • Even Dough Bands – an example here

Be sure to check out the other videos mentioned: ceramic beads and rolling out a slab!

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

Olive Float

I “grew up” in the clay world firing my work at cone 10 reduction. For those unfamiliar with clay firing terms, the cone number is a kind of shorthand for the ultimate firing temperature. Cone 10 is approximately 2300 to 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. Reduction means that the work was fired in a kiln environment where the amount of oxygen was limited or reduced. The combination on firing temperature and kiln environment impacts what clays and glazes that can be used as well as effects achieved, but I digress.

When you are first learning a skill or process you don’t know what you don’t know. It wasn’t until many years into my clay journey that I first came across other firing temperatures. I had just never created work at a studio where different firing options were available. In many ways it was eye opening, but so different that initially I only did a handful of experiments at other temperatures.

It wasn’t until a few years ago when I switched solely to my home studio and kiln that I really embraced a different firing temperature. I now fire exclusively at cone 5/6 (approximately 2100 degrees Fahrenheit). Brighter colors and a broader range of colors are some of the pros at this temperature.

Each year I have been expanding my glaze palette from five options my first year or two to about 15 plus at last count.

One of my newest experiments is Olive Float (pictured above). Let me know what you think.

See this planter and more available online.

Beads, Beads and More Beads!

Making jewelry with my own handmade ceramic components is a fun side project of mine. Occasionally I get the urge to display them to the world, but mostly I do it for me.

I thought I’d share some of my love of ceramic jewelry making with you in a series of fun tutorials! First up, let’s make beads!

I absolutely love making beads. Surprised? You’re probably not the only one since I make them, fire them and then … they just sit in a box or bowl. I have quite the collection of them along with other ceramic jewelry components.

Tools Mentioned!

  • Wooden Skewer – check the dollar store or online here
  • Wooden Modeling Tool – example here

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

How to Roll a Clay Slab (No Slab Roller Needed!)

One of the first things you miss as a hand builder when transitioning to a home studio is the slab roller or, at least, it was for me.

I pulled together my tips and tricks of rolling a slab at home for you in this video. Do you have any tips of your own to share? Let me know!

My go-to tools for rolling a slab!

  • Canvas or duck cloth – available wherever fabric is sold and inexpensive. Get a few yards and then cut to fit your needs.
  • Wooden trim – available at any home improvement or hardware store. Be sure to get 2!
  • Rolling pin, extra long!
  • Even Dough Bands

Thank for checking out my latest video! Like the rest of my tutorial videos, it is me raw and unedited.

All tools noted above are my own personal preferences for my studio practice. Purchases made using the links don’t add any cost to you, but do provide a small amount to me in support of my blog and videos.

After the Stretching Comes the Compression

Clay is such a wild material for creating work. It starts as a lump, really as a goop of mud, and can be turned into solid forms that are microwave and dishwasher safe.

How is clay able to go through that dramatic of a transformation?

The answer: compression

Have you ever tried creating with clay? On the wheel? With coils or slabs?

If you have then you have probably discovered that clay is very malleable. You can form almost anything and the construction possibilities are many.

You’ve probably also run into the hard part about working with clay.

When you’ve gone too fast in your creating. Or you think, “Done!” And it starts to dry for the kiln.

And it cracks.

And it warps.

And that piece over there falls off.

And …

Clay has a memory. It remembers being a lump of mud. It remembers everything – and I do mean everything – it went through during its transformation into a sculpture or pot.

That’s a lot of stretching and growth.

Think about yourself for a minute. What would happen if you had been stretched and proved that much?

You just might respond like clay. Maybe fall back into some old habits. Maybe default to an old mindset and react as you have in the past.

Growth is hard!

This is why compression is so important.

Compression is the “there, there” steps along the way of forging a new shape – of becoming.

It’s the smoothing of stretch marks (if only ours were so easy to get rid of!) and throwing rings.

It’s the melding of two pieces of clay together with care and reinforcing where they join.

When clay is stretched it weakens. Compression gives the clay back it’s strength so it’s doesn’t have to snap back into its old shape to be safe.

People are a lot like clay.

Internal and, very often, external forces will stretch us and cause growth. We also need periods along the way to re-strengthen as we embody our new form.

After the stretching comes the compression.

Sanded Smooth

I don’t think many folks realize that any handmade (or I guess even mass produced) work is generally sanded smooth prior to being sold.

You see, clay shrinks as it dries and gets fired something that quickly can get discouraging when starting to learn building with clay. As the clay shrinks, particles like sand and grog (pre-fired clay that has been ground up) that don’t shrink get revealed causing a roughness in the finished piece.

Check out my quick overview on sanding below! For even more sanding fun, take a look through my past post on the subject here.

I love to use wet/dry sandpaper in a variety of grits for my sanding and prefer to grab a multi-grit pack. The other tool I find useful (although I didn’t need in this demo) is a smoothing stone.

Some links in my posts may contain affiliate links for products I personally use and recommend. If you choose to purchase using these links your price for the item remains the same, but I receive a small amount towards supporting my blog. Thank You!

How to Smooth a Clay Edge Without Water

Water is great for so many things not the least of which is helping us stay hydrated, but, in my humble opinion, not so wonderful when it comes to working with clay.

As I mention in the video, I receive no money (its not an ad) from any of the companies who make the tools I mention – they are all of my own personal choices honed over my years of working with clay. I feel strongly that all of us eventually find the right tools that work best for each of us personally.

Surform Shaver Tool – Also available at your local home improvement store.

Mud Tools Polymer Rib

Some links in my posts may contain affiliate links for products I personally use and recommend. If you choose to purchase using these links your price for the item remains the same, but I receive a small amount towards supporting my blog. Thank You!

Exploring Mishima

Mishima is one of my favorite techniques in my toolkit. I love how you can create so many different looks using multiple layers of texture and colored slip (liquid clay) or underglaze on the surface of a piece.

In today’s video, I show the final part of the process where the excess underglaze (I’m using AMACO Velvet Underglazes) to reveal the inlaid color. You can see an alternative version of using underglaze in a similar way at the bisque stage here.

This video contains some affiliate links to products used in the demonstration. There is no change in price if you decide to purchase using the affiliate link provided, but I get a small amount towards supporting my blog. Thank you!