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.

A Little Bit of Experimentation

Just sharing a little bit of my behind the scenes process (or lack of it in this case!) with some experimenting I did on a planter yesterday.

I’m using for this process Amazon Velvet Underglazes. I don’t really explain this in my talk, but underglazes are essentially commercially produced colored clay. However, what differentiates them from a colored clay or colored slip you may make yourself is the range of versatility of when you can apply them. Unlike colored clay/slip which can only be applied to moist clay, underglazes can be applied to moist clay, bone dry clay or even after bisque fire. This technique I’m showing here takes full advantage of this flexibility to be used at the bisqueware stage when sponging your piece is safer. Enjoy!

All of my designs came about through similar times in the past when I was trying new ideas. Check out the ones that made the final cut here!

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.

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

sunflower

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

pot-head-collage

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.