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.

Purple Flowers

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” – Alice Walker

I think about this quote from Alice Walker every single time I see a purple flower whether it’s growing wild by the side of the road or in a garden somewhere. It always makes me smile in gratitude for all of the beauty in the world.

This planter reminds me of the purple wildflowers I see growing by the side of the road in the springtime. It’s so so so purple and definitely floral inspired that it really stands out against the more earth toned planters in my collection. It makes me smile every time I see it in my online shop. Maybe I need to keep it for my personal collection or make more … I can’t quite decide.

Either way be sure to enjoy this little pop of the color purple today!

Thinking About Drainage

Every time I share my planters with plant people I learn new things about drainage. I’m always happy to hear feedback on how to make my planters better homes for the plants that grow in them.

I will admit that sometimes I struggle initially with the feedback and how to incorporate it into my planters in the most effective way. There are lots of factors to consider from maintaining even, consistent wall thickness and other structural considerations to aesthetic considerations like continuing my personal style in the final form.

One such challenge revolved around adding additional drainage in the feet of my signature planter form. As you can sort of see from this angle, the method I use to form my planters’ feet creates low points in the pot where water can collect and cause root rot.

Here is a view of the planter upside down before any drainage holes are added.

The challenge was to decide the best way to avoid the low point.

Do I fill in the inside with additional clay? Well, that adds weight to the pot and the potential for uneven drying which can cause cracks.

Do I put in a thin layer of clay on the inside suspended over the low point? Then I create a hollow section in the pot and trapped air can cause explosions in the kiln during firing.

Do I fill in that part after the planter is completely fired with some non-clay material like caulk or silicone? I tried it on some pots I had already created and it works, but needs a lot more caulk, etc than it would appear. In addition to the added cost of the filler, the end result doesn’t look great.

In the end it was my second idea above that actually gave me the best solution. To release the trapped air in the pot I tried that idea on, I put holes in the bottom of the feet. The minute I did it, I realized, “Duh! Just put holes through the feet.”

It turned out to be the easiest, simplest solution and has the added benefit of being virtually invisible unless you look inside the pot or turn it over. So, now all of my planters from the very smallest to the largest have a minimum of five drainage holes (as pictured below).

At a recent show I learned that all of my drainage holes in my feet are actually helpful if the pot is used to plant bonsai since the initial planting requires the bonsai tree to be wired into the pot for security while it roots. So, there you have it! Two solutions in one – prevents root rot and allows for wire!

Looking for a great planter with absolutely fabulous drainage? Then be sure to check out my Etsy shop!

Its Good to Have Standards

Last fall I worked out and began creating standard sizes for my planters. It makes life so much easier. I no longer have to sit and sort pots by approximate size to figure out the right prices. I no longer willy-nilly cut out slabs of clay and hope that the proportions make sense once I start to form them.

Lots of unexpected things have worked out as a result of this change too. I can easily size up or down my planters with very little effort. Before I would make what I thought were larger and/or smaller sizes only to discover there was not as much variation as I had anticipated. I can also list multiples of the same planter design in my online shop since it has become a no-brainer to re-create the same dimensions.

But the best result of standard sizes? You’ll never guess, but my planters now all nest perfectly inside one another. Isn’t that cool?! I think that’s so cool!

Sunflowers

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This is one of my favorite patterns! I think part of the reason I like it so much is that it is created entirely with my own handmade stamps. It’s actually made up of three separate stamps: 1) the center, 2) the petal and 3) the pinstripes. I like how big and full the flowers turned out – they really remind me of large oversized sunflowers. I love how they are so big that they dwarf the smaller sized planters I’ve created with this pattern.

This particular version of my sunflower planters is actually a glaze mistake. Shhh! Don’t tell anybody! I used an amber celadon on each of the sunflowers, but applied the glaze too thin. The end result is more of a leathery brown color than a high gloss amber. I think it works though. It color give the pot a nice, rustic feel and doesn’t compete with any plants that might get potted in it.

Sometimes a mistake is really a happy accident!

Check out all of the specifics of this planter and more in my Etsy shop!

Figurative Work

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If you had asked me a year ago if I would be creating figurative sculptures I would have laughed and laughed and laughed. Yet here I am with several garden art sculptures slash planters created in a female form. Even more amazing is that I love creating them. I enjoy the attitude and personality each one takes on as the piece takes shape over the sculpting process. I especially love the chance to be really crazy and free with my glazing. Something about these forms seems to call for a no-holds barred approach to adding color that is far removed from my normally rather detailed and precise method.

This particular figure is my tallest yet – standing fourteen inches high – and has a lovely red midriff that I love. I hope you’ll take a little time to check her out in my online shop along with a couple others I have available.

New Planter Options – Introducing the Clover Series

Over the past several weeks I’m been working towards standardizing my planter sizes and textures. While I have more work to do, I’m excited to start sharing some of the fruits of my efforts.

I call this pattern my clover texture. I really enjoy how this pattern takes shape as it is repeated around the planter form as well as how the glaze nestles right into the grooves of the clover. It really is a perfect way to showcase my stain and glaze combinations.

Currently, this series is available in four color combos: blue-black, blue-green, shino and pale green. Be sure to let me know if you’d like to see it in other color options!

Clover Series

Home Depot Love

It’s Friday and time for a field trip! Today we’re headed to one of my absolute favorite places – The Home Depot, and yes, there is a “The” in their name we, or at least I, just never use it! Imagine my surprise when I went to take a picture of the front entrance of my local Home Depot and discovered it there!

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Prior to working in clay, I never really had any need to go to any type of home improvement store for the simple reason that I rent. My first several trips resulted in strange looks and panicked expressions from employees.

Pro tip – the worst thing you can tell a home improvement store employee when they ask what you need assistance finding is that you’re an artist and you’ll know it when you see it.

The more comfortable I’ve gotten with the layout of my store (and really all of them – they are all basically the same) the fewer sideways glances I get. I’ve even managed to meet some extremely helpful employees who, after explaining what I was looking for, have helped me search out and evaluate items from several sections across the store for just the right item.

Let’s go inside and take a look around at all the obvious, and not so obvious, things available for clay use at Home Depot.

Welcome to the garden section of the store. This is a great place to start! Typically housed in a fenced-in outdoor area adjacent and connected to the main part of Home Depot. It is open year-round and offers some great things for clay projects, alternative firings and art fair booth displays.

The very first aisle features clay pots of all kinds. I like taking a look through these for inspiration. You can get a great idea of what constitutes the pinnacle of functionality when examining commercial products. If a commercial product doesn’t have mass appeal and superb functionality it won’t sell – period. Be sure to check out drainage hole size and placement as well as shapes of pots and water catchers.

Ever wonder why so many planters are made out of terra cotta or earthenware? Well, when fired to temperature that particular clay never quite vitrifies and therefore remains porous making it great for allowing plants to breathe. If you’re partial to glazed planters then one solution is to forego glaze on the inside of the pot.

Lastly, take a look at the prices – this will help you gauge your own prices when making planters. While your prices won’t be exactly the same, it will give you a starting point.

Around the corner from the ceramic planters are ones made out of plastic. This aisle is a gold mine of forms of all shapes and sizes for molding your own planter and/or other projects. Since they are lightweight and non-breakable (and cheap!), you’ll be able to get great supports for creating larger forms.

Pro tip – Be sure to grab the corresponding water catcher if you’re form – ahem, planter – comes with one. Often they are molded to have a snap in place feature that is detrimental to using it as a mold for clay (see the two right-hand pictures above for without and with the catcher). If there isn’t one or if even the water catcher has raised parts too then simply fill that section in with clay until level before placing a sheet of plastic over the whole thing to make your clay easy to remove once set-up.

The garden section is all purpose when it comes to clay. Also near and around the planters is a whole area devoted to plant food. For the ceramic artist on a budget, these are great solutions to purchasing many of the minerals and heavy metals that are used in alternative firing options like pit fire. Miracle-Gro, in particular, is a great one to try out.

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Before leaving the garden section be sure to stop by the trellises. They come in all sorts of sizes, shapes and materials. They are great for art fair booth displays if you have tiles or wall pockets, etc to hang. I’ve even used them with fabric tacked on with upholstery tacks for a more finished look.

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On your way out of the garden center, you’ll find displays of seed packets of all kinds. Be sure to pick up a few, along with some good soil, to make seed bombs! Its guerrilla gardening at its finest! Once made, you can throw seed bombs into vacant lots, by the side of the road or anywhere that needs a little sprucing up.


A perfect project for kids and the kid-at-heart, all you need are seeds, good soil and clay. First, create a mixture of soil and seeds and add a little bit of water – just enough to get it damp and you don’t overwhelm your clay. Then get a ball of clay and start to wedge in the soil/seed mixture. There are no right or wrong proportions here as long as there is enough clay to hold the ball together. I would recommend avoiding larger sized seeds as they tend to create cracks after the clay dries. Once dry, your seed bombs are ready to be used (no firing!).


Seed bombs work because the clay gives them heft to be thrown and protection from being eaten. Rain slowly disintegrates the clay while giving time for the seeds to sprout. Its a lot of fun!

Pro tip – Be sure to pick up seeds for wildflowers and grasses native to your region of the world.

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Adjacent to the garden section are lawn mowers, outdoor grills and other yard appliances and power tools. A quick look through shows us a few great texture making purchases!

One of my latest favorites in the studio’s found object collection for texture is an air filter! While these are available in many stores and places, here are a couple for lawn mowers that are a nice, not too big, size. The best use? Personally, I like to roll my coils into them (any direction works) to create texture coils to use as handles for mugs. I’ll be featuring my favorite texture making tools throughout, but I encourage you to explore on your own as well. I always find something new when I visit.

Next up is lighting! This section can get a little overwhelming. The most important thing I’ve learned is to ignore the actual lights and focus on the lighting hardware.

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This rather fuzzy photo (sorry!!) is of a lamp making kit. These are great for ceramic artists. First, it makes you realize how absurdly easy it is to actually make a custom lamp. Second, most of them, like this one, come with rubber cylinders to help you fit the lamp kit securely into the top of your lamp. In this kit, you can see them in the upper right hand corner.

How do you make a lamp out of clay? Make a form – it can be literally anything – that meets the following criteria:

  1. Some height is necessary to balance out the lamp shade. I would recommend a minimum of eight to ten inches
  2. Some weight is necessary. Lamps can get bumped and knocked over. You’ll want to make sure that your base is not so lightweight that it can’t take normal wear and tear. Stable is a word that should come to mind when creating your lamp base.
  3. There needs to be a small opening at the top no bigger than 2 inches in diameter. Don’t get too caught up in precise measurements since that’s why kits have rubber fitters.
  4. There needs to be a hollow path running down the interior of the lamp to hide the cord. Typically, this is a no-brainer since good clay construction practices encourage hollow interiors.
  5. Lastly, you’ll need an exit hold near the bottom and in what you consider to be the back of the base. This allows the cord to exit so the lamp can be plugged into the wall. It should be approximately 1/2 inch in diameter to account for shrinkage.

That’s it. It seems so simple after all, doesn’t it. It makes you wonder why everyone isn’t creating lamps!

Pro tip – Look for lamp shades at thrift stores, discount home good stores like Ross or TJ Maxx before trying other places. You might find a great bargain!

Next up in lighting, you’ll want to check out all of the electrical gear. There are some really cool and unusual textures to be found.

First up, these metal tubes (no, I don’t know the real name) are for corralling and protecting wiring – they are great for rolling into clay. They come in several different diameters and can be cut up into smaller more manageable pieces if necessary. Sometimes it helps to bring a friend or two with you on a texture shopping excursion to split the cost and materials!

Second, another, and recent, favorite of mine are outlets. They look kind of boring from this side, but if you turn them over the imprint they leave is really cool. The examples are all bolted to the shelves and the ones to purchase are packaged, so I don’t have a picture of it for you. Prevail on a friend who is a handy person to see if they have one you can take a look at the back.

Pro tip – I strongly discourage you from taking part your outlets at home. There are safer ways to take a look at the back of an outlet.

Alright, on to our last stop in lighting – electrical tape! Electrical tape is a wonderful material. Its flexible, water tight, hard to rip and cuts cleanly making this kind of tape perfect for glaze experiments.

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Electrical tape can be applied to bisque ware as a removable resist for glazes and stains. Once the glaze or stain is applied and before it gets too dry (the glaze will flake if too dry), remove the tape for super clean resist lines. Feel free to experiment and apply the tape over a stain as well. I suspect that it shouldn’t be put on over a glaze as it mostly likely will remove the glaze with it. Auto detailing tape can be substituted if you’d like instead of electrical tape.

Wow! This post is getting rather lengthy and we’re not even a third of our way through the store yet! I’m going to pause here in our visit. Stay tuned next Friday for some more Home Depot Love!