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!

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!

Sunflower Deja Vu

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We all have a tendency to revisit and return to the comfortable and the designs I create with my found objects and stamps are no exception. I think its interesting sometimes to compare and contrast the use of my texture patterns between pieces.

Take this plate, for instance. At first glance the colorfulness of the glazes most likely first catches your eye, then as you take a closer look you might notice a sunflower up in the top right corner. The same sunflower I talked about using as a repeating pattern for some of my planters in my last blog post.

On my planters, this stamped flower is overbearing and almost seems larger than the pot. Yet, here on this plate, that same sunflower is less prominent and has to compete with the rest of the textures and all those glaze colors. It seems so small in comparison to the ones on my planters despite all of them being the exact same size.

I really enjoy how the same textures can change and shift based on their context – just like most things in life really.

Learn more about this plate and others in my Etsy shop!

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!

Monday’s Muse – Linda Sikora

Sometimes you hear the exact right words at the exact right moment.

That’s what happened to me this past weekend. I follow a wonderful Instagram account called Pots in Action that is a community based feed connecting artists and art lovers. The other day they posted a video clip of Linda Sikora speaking at a recent ceramic workshop series.

Linda Sikora, “…It’s more important to keep paying attention and to follow your attention, than it is to think about meaning and content, because meaning and content come from paying attention to the world.”

This. Exactly this. You just have to keep showing up everyday to evolve.

Finds at Office Depot

I love finding things to use for my clay projects in unexpected places. Once you get started looking at things beyond their intended use the world of possibilities really opens up before you.

Take a recent trip to Office Depot. I’m at Office Depot all the time for boxes and to ship out customer orders, but every once in awhile I roam the aisles. That’s really one of my all time favorite things to do – roam the aisles!

Let’s start off with those items that are readily available in all manner of shapes, colors and sizes at office supply stores – rulers. These are a life saver when working in clay, particularly hand built work, since they can help you size work correctly, ensure straight cuts and make replication super easy. I personally are partial to translucent rulers since I can see through to where I placing the ruler easily.

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Office supply stores are great for beyond the basics rulers too like protractors for determining angle cuts, compasses for perfect circles and t-squares for easy right angle work. My absolute favorite is the flexible ruler pictured above on the far right. It’s bendy! Making it ideal to measure and mark distances on non-flat objects. Think about all of the time you spend eyeballing the center of a hump mold to place a foot – no more! I used to rely on string before I discovered bendy rulers. Fabric measuring tapes for sewing work great for this purpose too!

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You can also find great options for creating durable templates to help replicate your projects at office supply stores as well. Manilla folders or craft paper are perfect because they are generally inexpensive, but much more durable than newspaper for long lasting template creation. One of the best options for templates makes regular appearances in art supply stores, but can sometimes be found at Office Depot (at least mine has it) as well – foam sheets. The foam is thick, hard to rip and stands up extremely well to moisture. This is important if, like me, you use your favorite templates over and over in production.

Foam sheets also make great stencils since with their thickness they can leave a mark if rolled into the clay which leads us to another great find … hard plastic stencils!

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While certainly office supply stores don’t match the stencil selection of art supply stores, the ones they do have are extremely useful. Do you know how hard it is to find good options for transferring text to your pots?!

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Stencils are also great to use in conjunction with stickers!! Office supply stores have the absolute best selection of stickers, ahem, you might know they as labels. No there typically aren’t any dinosaurs available, but they sell all manner of basic shapes and sizes so you can create your very own designs. Stickers are a great tool to use when glazing your pots as demonstrated here.

In addition to circles and squares, most supply stores will have a great selection of letter and number stickers for business owners to use in making signs. Be sure to check out the sign section when there.

Last, office supply stores also have one of my absolute favorite things to purchase – very, very cheap plastic paint brushes. I know so many folks love to use fancy brushes for their work, but I find the cheap plastic ones great. Their bristles hold and retain their shape for getting into tight spaces when glazing. Also, I never feel bad about throwing away a cheap brush if it gets ruined. Although between you and me, my cheap brushes tend to hold up better than the more expensive ones!

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We won’t even get into all of the things found at office supply stores that would make absolutely great textures – I leave those for you to discover on your own!

Blue Suede Shoes

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There are many reasons why I enjoy texture. I could even go into all of them here, but instead I’ll tell you about the one you probably don’t usually hear from me. A big reason why I enjoy creating texture in my work is that it’s like a little mini walk through the experiences I encounter in my life. The stories behind how each texture pattern came to be a part of my collection are present in every single piece I create.

Sometimes the story is easy. A handmade clay stamp made from a found object. Other times the story is more complex. Each serves as a reminder that nothing is ever really ordinary. Everything has the ability to elevated to the extraordinary.

Take the blue shoe prints along the bottom of this plate. This shoe print is part of my permanent collection of texture makers and no, it’s not from one of my shoes.

I was set-up by the side of the road in front of a gallery in Running Springs collecting shoe prints from folks passing by. One person who I had previously spoken to returned and brought me the soles of two shoes he found by the side of the road. No actual shoe parts except for the rubber sole. They were rather disgusting and full of dirt and who knows what else, but … but the treads were in great shape!

I took them home and scrubbed them several times before cutting them up into pieces. I discarded the less textured parts of the soles and saved the best parts of the pattern. You’ll find pieces of these soles in many of my pieces and every time I use them I get reminded of how they came into my possession.

I love these kinds of stories. The little glimpses I get of people like the thoughtfulness of a stranger who somehow knew the perfect gift for me.

See Blue Suede Shoes and other recent texture platter creations in my online shop!

Sewing with Clay

It all started out several class sessions ago when a student suggested that we should try to make clay figures using doll sewing patterns as our templates. I thought it sounded like a great idea and did all sorts of research on doll sewing patterns until I found some great ones that could be translated into clay. Before long I had expanded my search beyond dolls to include dresses, corsets, blouses, pants, skirts – you name it, I have found some kind of sewing pattern for it.

I’ve even turned some of them into clay creations from simple one to two part patterns to complicated ten or twelve piece ones. I even ultimately had my class try them out as well using both clothes patterns as well as doll patterns. My research has even led me to other artists like Melisa Cadell who, for some of her work, uses a beginning for the torso that is seems inspired by sewing pattern thought processes.

My favorite pattern to date and the one I use over and over again is a super simple blouse  template. The pattern is perfect because the sleeves for this blouse are more of a suggestion then actual sleeves. The form is feminine and when put together suggestive of the female form.

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Above you can see an example of one half of the final piece (or either the front/back of the blouse). It is shown upside down since the wider part is actually what would turn into the sleeves on a fabric piece. I have used this pattern both with the wider part at the top of the vase as well as at the bottom.

Currently I’ve been taken with the notion of corsets since with the wider part at the bottom, this template lends itself so well to that feel. All of my texture patterns on the vases I’m making using this pattern recently have been done with an eye to that garment – some kind of seam down the middle, maybe a texture to suggestion darting – you get the idea. I actually think the example above looks a lot like a bathing suit, but was very gratified when a friend suggested that it looked like a corset when I posted it recently on social media.

Just like the blouse, each vase needs two pieces of “fabric” to work, so I’ve been creating set after set of matching clay “fabric” these past couple of weeks. Below are some of my initial vases I’ve formed. I can’t wait to see them glazed!

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Tire Tracks

I got interested in tire tracks a little over a year ago when I was creating patterns for a series of work inspired by the gears of pocket watches. While much of the work I created was an abstract view of gears, I had felt it important to incorporate some textures recognizable as mechanical components.

I found and bought this fabulous wagon wheel-sized tire that I use in a couple of ways: 1) to create tracks and 2) face down for a perfect gear reference. You can actually see both uses in the plate pictured. The tracks race across the plate through the middle creating an oval shape. The “gear” is glazed in a pale green in the upper right hand corner.SAM_1032

My favorite, by far, tire is actually a small swivel wheel that must have been used as a castor for a small metal cart or something. It is a great texture tool. First, the wheel itself has variation in its tread from larger to smaller circling it. Second, it is a castor of some type, so it was this great handle/swivel attached to it making for easy rolling across the clay. I don’t even know where I got it from and I’ve been using it for awhile as a background texture in my work.

This little tire is getting front and center coverage these days thanks in large part to all the planters I’m making. Turns out its a great planter texture. (Psst – click the planter picture for available planters!)

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Its so popular as a planter texture that I decided to try it the other day on mugs. You know what? It makes great mug texture too! I love how the swoops and tracks of this little tire turn out different each time. The variation between the positive and negative space when the tire is all by itself just really works with my forms.

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As I shared in my last blog post, I’ve even starting using my favorite tire tracks tool on my plates as well. Check out some examples and more here. Let me know what you think of all these tire tracks – just click the thought bubble to the right of this (or any) blog post’s title to comment!

Trying Out New Textures

I always on the hunt for new texture makers for my work. I pick up random things, and I do mean “things” since I’m not even always sure just what they are, when I’m out walking. I buy crazy parts from dollar stores, auto supply stores and home improvement stores. I make a large number of my tools as well, like my roller stamps, from impressions I collect or carve into clay.

IMG_4538I found a really different object last week while I was out walking. I have absolutely no idea what it is and, yes, I washed it thoroughly before trying it out.

It was perfect timing to try it out on some plates I’ve been working on the past few weeks. I love getting new texture makers especially ones like this that have the possibility to create so many different pattern options.

I’ve tried using my latest acquisition in a couple of different ways and thought I would share my favorite mark I’ve made with it so far. Check out the time lapse video below to see it used on one of my plates in progress. In addition to my new found object, I use one of my texture rollers, one of my handmade stamps and the bottom of my paddle handle. See if you can spot them all!