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.

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.

Coordination

A few months ago I had a conversation on the subject of matching dinnerware with another potter. She told me that her mother had always told her that once she got to a point where she had her own set of matching white dinner plates that she would know that her life was together.

My life has never been together.

The closest I’ve ever come to matching white dinner plates was a cheap big box store bought set of dinnerware I got when I was in college – it had some white, but also lots and lots of green. I’ve never been the most careful of folks, the unkind might even call me a klutz, so my closest to white dinner plates sets didn’t last very long.

Since that time I’ve had any number of randomly collected plates, many of them being seconds or demo plates from classes I’ve taught. My dinnerware today is a wonderfully mismatched collection that makes no sense whatsoever.

When I set out to create what a JillyBean Pottery dinnerware collection looked like I was not inclined, given my history, to strive for matching plates. In fact I absolutely LOVE that this collection can match if someone chooses that route, but also opens up numerous possibilities for mixing it up. All of the colors I’ve chosen beautifully coordinate with each other, so blend in various shades of the same family of colors while others offer the chance to create a contrasting pop of interest.

I hope you find this collection as fun as I do! Start your own collection today by visiting my online shop – you can buy a set or even just a single plate to get going.

Euphorbia Mammillaris Variegata

The lovely folks at California Cactus Center in Pasadena feature a wide range of rare succulents from all over. In addition to being a great resource of knowledge on the care and maintenance of this drought tolerant plants, their nursery features a range of staged plants in both commercial and handmade pots.

Aaree was kind enough to feature one of my planters in her video about how to achieve different looks using the same plant, but different planters and top dressing. Definitely a must watch for some great tips on successfully re-potting your succulents as well!

Inspired to try it yourself? Stop by California Cactus Center to take a look through their selection of pots (including some of my latest designs) or visit my Etsy shop!

The Space Between

I struggled for a long time with adding negative space to my work. My approach was the more texture the better, but after awhile I realized that more texture isn’t necessarily better.

Strangely, it was my planters that really got be started on using more negative space. Since these pots tend to have simpler patterns and less complexity in glazing I really got to explore the idea of leaving a place for people’s eye to rest. Then as I started enjoying more and more that quiet space, I began looking for stamps I had made that created interesting spaces that when repeated almost became the focus vs the textured impression.

The best part of including this little bit of space between my textures is that oftentimes those spaces create their own conversation like with this little planter. I love, love this fish scale texture and had no idea how provocative it might become once formed.

Stop by the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix this weekend to check this one and all of my most recent planters in person!

Low Riders

I thought I’d share a peak into my newest planter designs leading up to this weekend’s Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society’s Annual Show.

I love these kind of designs with a zipper-esque approach with all of the texture falling in between two lines. I spend way more time than you probably imagine working out the exact flow of the line before I add any other textures. I especially like how on this particular planter the line reminds me of pants worn low on the hips – the lack of glaze above only emphasizes that impression for me.

My favorite pieces are all, in some way, like this planter. They evoke an unexpected image or two with my texture and glaze choices.

Oh, That Drip

Glazing … it tends to be the bane of most ceramic artist’s existence.

Why? Well, where to start?

I suppose I could begin with sharing that the glazing process is a chemical reaction activated by the heat of the kiln. Before firing glazes all tend to look kind of pinkish, brownish, white-ish, red-ish or sometimes grey-ish, but certainly never the color they will be after firing. Its enough to drive a person batty imagining the “correct” color.

Catch those quotes in my last statement? Chemical reactions also mean that glazes don’t necessarily combine based on the color wheel or logic. My favorite example of this is a beautiful turquoise matte glaze that turns maroon when a clear is applied over it instead of a shiny turquoise color.

I could go on about glaze application thickness and application methods, but I fear I’m digressing from that drip I mentioned. All of that activating heat also means that glaze doesn’t like to stay where you put it. Instead glaze tends to run and pool. This can be extremely helpful as well as frustrating.

You see, glaze that runs can run right off of the pot onto the kiln shelf fusing your pot to the shelf. So, that intriguing little drip when it happens is something that gets ceramic artists very excited. This is especially true when that lovely drip stops just before disaster and instead leaves behind a focal point on your piece.

You can find this bottle and more of my work at Artisans Etc. in Big Bear. See more of my glaze experiments – and seem to be always experiments! – online in my shop!

Is It Bathing Suit Weather Yet?

As you may remember from my tree bark mug post last week, I recently moved to the San Bernardino Mountains. Even if you don’t live in California, you may have heard that this has been the wettest winter in like a decade and has almost wiped out our drought. Although I’m thrilled that California’s water situation has drastically improved – I’ve been a little less thrilled with my part in it – namely, my newly developed arm muscles from shoveling all of that snow!!

So, in the interest of thinking warm weather thoughts, I thought I’d share one of my newer vases inspired by sewing patterns for corsets. This one, in particular, has always made me think of one of those bottom ruffled bathing suits. Now if we can just find some warmer weather to go with it – we’d be set!

Check out this vase and others from my corset-inspired forms online in my Etsy shop!

Unusual Tape

You may know that I recently have gotten really into using custom masking tape stickers to create texture on my mugs and planters. This mug is a little different. The tape I’m using to create the skinny lines of bare clay actually comes exactly this super thin width!

The moment I found this super thin tape at the store I knew I had to have it! I don’t think I even had any idea what I would do with it when I bought it at Daiso.

Weeks past and one day at the studio I was so over cutting out custom sized masking tape stickers. I wanted to stop for the day, but I still have a handful of mugs to sticker. That’s when I remembered this tape. It was so super easy to quickly add vertical lines of varying lengths around my remaining mugs.

I really love how this particular masking tape resist design turned out … which is nice since it’s so easy to do in comparison to other patterns!

Oh, and just what is this super skinny tape supposed to be used for when its not decorating mugs? It creates dividing lines on dry erase boards, pinstriping cars and other paint effects. Check out my other taped work available in my Etsy shop!

Bark vs Snow

It can be so hard to know where an artist gets the inspiration for their work – such is the case with this lovely little bark mug.

I’ve been making fake tree bark, or faux bois if you want to be fancy, in clay for what seems like forever. An artist I met some years back, David Gilbaugh showed me the basics of creating bark and even gifted me a special tool he had made to help create realistic bark.

I’ve never achieved David’s level of expertise – he’s a true master and can accurately re-create the bark of any specific tree with ease. Definitely check out his work if you get a chance as it is stunning.

I can, however, create basic generic tree bark easily. It makes a great parlor trick to show my students and I’ve been pulling it out of my back pocket for years as a fun impromptu demo. In fact this mug was created during one such demo a few weeks back.

I was showing some studio folks not in my class the mug pre-glaze and one of them offered up that I must be getting inspired by all of the tire tracks in the snow now that I live in the mountains.

Sadly, no. Snow has yet to inspire anything, but hard physical labor in me this winter season. Have I mentioned how much I *enjoy* shoveling?

I did, however, love getting the reminder that even in what appears an easily interpreted piece of art can take on so many variations when viewed through another lens.

Check out this mug and more non-snow inspired work in my Etsy shop!