Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year!

Just think, another whole new year coming, with, so far, no bad pots in it! No kiln disasters, no glaze floopies, no frowning customers, no sweaty all-nighters...... whoo hoo!

To properly celebrate this fact, Smartass and I put together an amazing little desk calendar.

It has a page for every month. All 12 of them! None missing! Not even July!

It has days for every month, hopefully the right number of them each time.

The numbers are written ever so neatly! OK, Microsoft Word gets some of the credit.
The cover.... exciting, huh?

Smartass got himself onto every page, but you knew that was going to happen. He points out that he was really quite restrained and only appears once per page.

Now, here's the deal: if you would like your very own copy of this unique aid to temporal organization (you can write on it), just send an email to Pine Ridge Studio. The first 3 emails will get a free (free!) Official 2013 Smartass Calendar

(Do not include your address - if you are one of the first 3 to respond and win a calendar, I will email you back and you can send your address then. I'll mail you the calendar once you send your addie. Easy? You bet. Worth doing? Of course. Fun? Natch.)

(What happens to your email if you don't win? Nothing!! I delete it! Promise.)

Oh, and Happy New Year to everyone!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

.....'twas the night before Christmas, and all the orders were done, all the clay was put away, the kilns were standing ready....

... a branch of green lay on the table, wafting scents of balsam and fir around the Studio....

... stars twinkled in the cold sky outside....

... eggnog and cookies were abroad in the House....

and the Tomtes came out to play:

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Leaves' Design

Here is the picture I promised of the pottery with the leaves:

Not a very good picture, but you get the idea.

The basic leaves are stenciled, then the details are added with brushwork. The only hard part is making the design random!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gopher Guts?

It being Friday, which is no reason for anything, I decided to have a catch-up/clean-up day. I've been very busy getting things ready for my pottery sale, fireGifts, for quite a while now, and frankly, the local environment is a little the worse for wear.

In the Studio: pots in every stage on every possible horizontal surface. Drifts of dog fur under the tables. A couple of butter dishes still drying, they weren't dry enough to go into the last bisque load. The porcelain clay can go in a bit damp and never causes trouble, but the buff stoneware, if it has the least bit of moisture in it, kabloooie. They'll have to go in the small kiln tonight. Decorated ware with leaves design ready for the glaze kiln...... bisque waiting to be dipped in white glaze and similarly 'improved', finished pots waiting to have the bottoms seen to and then be packed. The only clear spots are the wheel heads.

In the office: little scrips of paper all over with maybe important info on them. I have an awful habit of scribbling important stuff on little scratches of paper (envelopes, shopping lists, receipts, bits of newspaper, all are apt to be pressed into unaccustomed service) and then losing them. Also invoices, paid and otherwise, drafts of ads for fireGifts, recorder music I am supposed to scan and re-size to fit on one page, a whole pile of pottery ideas...... and tiny dried-up leaves all over from the hanging plant I evicted the other day. Dead. Could be I didn't water it....

And the house itself, well, the less said the better. Let's just say, we've been having meals, sleeping comfortably is possible, and all residents are warm and dry. But now I have guests coming maybe on Sunday so action is required. Urgently.

Before I get started vacuuming, here is a collage of autumn leaves:

No, I haven't gone completely wahooo.... and you have not accidentally fallen into a photography blog, there is a connection. My latest pots have leaves stenciled and painted on. I'll try to get a photo to post when they come out of the kiln. Unless they are all awful, in which case I'll have to, well, I don't know what, take up knitting maybe.

Better get vacuuming. Now I'm humming the old silly thing my daughter used to sing: Great Green Gobs of Greasy, Grimy Gopher Guts. (She was about 6 at the time.) Hmm. Certainly suits the state of this place. Now, don't tell me I am going squirrely. It is too late.

fireGifts, by the way, is going to be terrific! Some 30 artists, mostly potters but two glass workers, all getting masses of new work ready. We open next Friday at 4pm. I'm not nervous! Oh, no, I'm quite confident, except when I'm shaking in my boots....  The ads in the papers look good, I've had several phone calls from people who have seen them.... everything on my to-do list is done except buying duct tape.... what can go wrong......

Nothing. Great Green Gobs......

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Wonderful, Ugly, Rubber Boots

Once upon a time, in a land not at all far away, there lived a young girl who suddenly, after many years of being home-schooled, had to go to a Real School. She was fairly neutral about this, having long ago learned that adults were prone to unfathomable behavior and her energies were better spent on other matters such as insect collecting, sketching, and keeping a sharp eye on small brothers.

All went well until the weather, as weather does in this land-not-far-away, especially the Northern reaches of it, turned cold and snowy and it transpired that Senior Parent did not intend to purchase attractive boots for her to wear to this Real School. Her dreams of lovely, taffeta-textured boots with shiny buttons and fur trim were cruelly dashed. SP actually expected her to wear, gasp, horror of horrors, rubber boots. The awful farm kind, black with red rubber soles. SP pointed out that many kids wore rubber boots to school. Our heroine pointed out that they were all boys. Talks failed. Negotiations failed. Diplomacy failed. Relations became strained.  An atmosphere of great chilliness developed.

She decided to wear her old canvas sneakers to the bus, a matter of a two kilometer trek twice a day.

It rained. She wore her canvas sneakers.

It snowed. She wore her canvas sneakers.

Further chilliness developed, and not in the atmosphere. SP figured she was having a Learning Experience.

She was. But what she learned was that, if it is wet, then it isn't all that cold, and if it is not wet, then canvas sneakers with two pairs of wool socks are no colder than rubber boots.

Yes, of course, this young heroine was me, and I still well remember changing out of those cold wet dirty sneakers in the school bus. It was years later that I finally began to appreciate rubber boots. I was getting interested in hiking and gardening and needed something to keep my feet dry..... Now I love my rubber boots!

My wonderful, ugly, rubber boots! (I got a new pair yesterday!)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bonsai Pot

Ok, here it is:

Ugly, huh? Not really! The glaze didn't come out as interesting as I had hoped, but I'm quite happy that it didn't crack or otherwise embarrass me. I was trying to make something that would look like a rock, and I think it does.

All you have to do is imagine it filled with soil, lightly mounded up and mossy, with a wild and windswept tree growing in it......

The other stuff in the kiln was berry bowls. I'm pleased with the strawberries:

And the blueberries aren't too bad:

Maybe a little too organized.... but blueberries sprinkled around just look like dots. Hmmmm, dots are easy to paint.....

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Joy of Pets

I love my dog. Really. He's a great companion and a fine early warning system. He alerts me to bears raiding the bird feeders and Hydro meter readers requesting permission to come aboard. He lets customers' little children pat him on the head and charms their parents. He adds adventure to our walks by inventing new ways to pass me on the trail without knocking me over by running full tilt into the backs of my knees..... but why, oh why, does he have to roll in things?

Dead things, that is.

And I love my cat too, sort of. Her nickname is Hellcat so you can see why I'm a bit ambivalent here, but really I'm pretty attached to her. She's the aloof kind, so it pleases me that she seems to like me, too. Sometimes when I feel a bit dented by some experience or other, usually involving people, I think, "Well, at least my cat likes me" and it helps. But does she have to drag things into the Studio?

Alive things, that is.

So this afternoon I chased an angry chipmunk all around the Studio until it finally leapt out through the window and escaped. Never mind the screen, it had a hole in it anyway.

Than I washed Kip with soap and the garden hose. Took half an hour and he's not coming in until he's dry.

After that I got out a really weird glaze I have and sloshed it all over a bonsai pot I have been working on. This glaze (and I have no idea what is in it, it's been around the Studio for years and there is only a small bucketful left) fires up a mottled grey/green/blue. Really. But it has to go on unevenly or else you just get plain grey. I brushed it on with a house-painting brush! Nice and blotchy. It'll go in the kiln tomorrow and come out Friday, and I promise, no matter how bad it is, I'll post a picture.

Dead or alive..

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Don't anybody tell Workmen's Comp, but there was a little industrial accident in the Studio this morning.

I was happily throwing Utensil Jars, the "don't you have anything smaller" size, and was cutting the almost last one off the wheel when, somehow, my knuckles got down on the surface of the plastic bat and the hole in the bat cut the skin right off my knuckle. Since I wire stuff off with the wheel spinning at a good clip, the second hole immediately followed and took the skin off the next knuckle. Oww.

I finished the Jars with gritted teeth and am now sporting a nice new pair of band-aids.

Not a major accident, but it reminds me how easily we can damage ourselves. Just when you think you know what you're doing something gets you. I've used those bats for years (and never liked the ones with the holes, I prefer the other type which has depressions underneath to catch the bat pins) and have always cut the pots off with the wheel spinning and this is the first time I've done this. I did once cut a finger by holding the wire too tightly but that was just me - I was too stubborn to let go because I didn't want to ruin the pot. Don't remember that pot now though, just remember the cut.

And that "don't you have anything smaller" size? Well, everything I make comes in two sizes: too small and too big. So these, which will be about 9" high and 6-8" across the opening when done, will be the 'too large' size. I had fun because I made 6 different shapes and didn't worry too much about the exact size. People tend to buy only one, so it's exact size isn't critical. Besides, they're all going to be too big (or too small) anyway.

We will now have a short pause in throwing activity while the knuckles recover.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Colour Tests

Wow, it has been a long time since I posted!

What can I say, Life has been happening. As it does.

I've been very busy getting my new pottery sale, fireGifts, organized. The hall is booked... the plans are made.... almost half the available spaces are already spoken for.... I'm getting excited! The sale is called fireGifts, as you may have guessed, and will be in the RA Centre, Ottawa over the weekend of Oct. 26-28, 2012. There'll be 40 clay and glass artists. The best, mostly functional, work in Ottawa will be there!

Got a speeding ticket, asked mildly if Ms. Officer was really sure she stopped the right person (she hadn't) and then got a ticket for driving with 'an obstructed windshield' due to having a small crack right under the mirror plus a red paper sticky in the lower right-hand corner. OK, I have to get that fixed anyway, but cheeeezz. And she's still wrong and the red sticky stays.

Ran around every day turning greenhouse and seed-starting-shed heaters on-off, on-off as the weather went from +20C top -05C and back and around again and back again.... we've had a few amazingly warm days, and many quite cold nights. Lots of things are going to bloom with brown frozen tips. Some of the early Daffodils lasted less than one day. This seems like Global Warning, not Global Warming.

Tried hard to fix my kitchen sink drain. It was clogged and I did get that fixed, but then when I went to put it all back together one of the rings that screw stuff together cracked and I couldn't get it all completely watertight. Then I tried to buy a new ring.... and discovered that it wasn't supposed to come off and only had because it was cracked, and the whole assembly has to be replaced. Ok, cue a plumber. I'm not up to spending hours hacksawing and glueing and fitting ABS pipe.

Kept trying to make stock for the coming Market season but I'm not sure I got much done. Luckily Super Helper was here and she did a lot of work testing various glaze colours. I would like a good blue and a good green, but it isn't easy. We used a system I learned years ago in a workshop. It's a bit tedious to do, but is a good way to narrow down what colourants to use and in what amounts.

For those who are interested, here is what you do:

1. Decide which base glaze you are going to use.

2. Decide what colourants you want to test. I wanted to test varying amounts of Cobalt Carbonate with and without Red Iron Oxide, Rutile and Superpax.

3. If you want to test 7 colourants, as I did, mix a batch of the base glaze 7 x 7 times the 100-gram amount. In other words, to test 7 colourants, mix 49 times the 100-gram amount of the base glaze.

4. Divide it into 7 equal amounts. (SH eye-balled and then weighed.)

5.For each of the additions you want to test, multiply the percentage you want to try by 2 and then by 7 to get the amount to add to each of the containers from step 4. I wanted to see what 1.5% Cobalt Carbonate would do, so we added 2 x 1.5 x 7 or 21grams of Cobalt Carb to container #2.  Container #1 was left with no additions, containers #3 to #7 contained, in this case, 42 grams of Cobalt Carbonate, 56 grams of CoC, 70 grams Red Iron Oxide, 112 grams Rutile and 112 grams Superpax.

6. Divide each of the 7 containers into 7 smaller ones. We used plastic cups. Number them as you see here.

7. Get matching test tiles ready, numbered as shown.

8. Now place one cup labeled #1, one labeled #2, and so on in a row at the top. Dip tile #1 in cup #1, #2 in #2 and so on.

9. Now pour a second cup labeled #1 and a second cup labeled #2 together. Pour back and forth a few times and stir to mix well. Dip tile #1-2 in this cup. Now do #1 and #3 together, then #1 and #4 and so on. This is your second row from the top. Keep going until you have all the combinations done.

Here's what you get: In the top row are all the tiles with double the amounts of colourants you wanted to test. The second row down is each of these mixed with an equal amount of the base glaze with no colourant, ie the actual amount you wanted to test. The third row is #2 plus #3, etc. Now if you like one, you just check the number on the back and you know what colourants in what percentage gave you that result.

Of course we tested 3 base glazes, and tested all the combos on two different clays. No point in not overdoing things!

This set of tiles is about the best of the lot. My usual base glaze on my usual porcelain clay. I really like tile 3-5, but it isn't blue, it is green! Tile 1-6 is nice too and will be worth more testing. As for blue, I'm still not happy and will have to do tighter more controlled tests around 3-6 and 3-7. I'm looking for a lively but not eye-popping blue.

Now, next week, can I please make some pots???

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Maple Run Studio Tour

Well, the Maple Run Studio Tour was last weekend. I was a guest at a Chris van Zanten's glass studio. I really enjoyed seeing all the glass - lots of bird feeders hanging all over the yard! but I could have done with more visitors. People came in little bursts, as they will, but I had enough time to do 8 Killer Sudoku puzzles..... not a good thing.

Attendance at this Tour seems to be dropping each year. And everyone on it is working as hard as ever to make it a success. I can speculate about possible reasons - the looming federal and provincial budgets, the high price of gas, people more and more squeezed for time, fewer artists on the Tour this year, cold weather, craft buying fatigue, younger people not interested in 'old' crafts, competition from indie crafts..... the fact that it is getting harder and harder to advertise an event..... whoa, that's a lot of possible reasons!

I'd be interested to hear about other Tours - was your attendance up or down, sales up or down.... any ideas or suggestions for us?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let There Be Light..... and other Studio Shenanigans

Last week one of the fluorescent lights above my work table quit. Ah, I thought, how lucky, I have a spare tube. Not so lucky..... it didn't help. So a quick trip to the local home renovations emporium for more tubes. Still didn't work.

It was a bit dim in the evening, trying to paint pots with no overhead light.

Back to the home reno emporium. This time I bought a whole new fixture.

This morning, Super Helper and I replaced the old fixture with the new one. Turned out the old one was just hung from the ceiling with butterfly hangers. I had always sort of assumed that ceiling lights were attached to some sort of actual wood inside the ceiling but apparently not. Then it turned out that the new fixture wasn't quite the same as the old one (naturally) so we would have to make new holes for the butterfly things. But one of the new holes would be too close to the hole where the power cable came through. Long story short, it took a bit of measuring and drilling and breath holding and duct tape, but finally we got the new fixture nicely up, installed the new tubes, turned the power back on, and WOW, we had LIGHT!

We did the Happy Dance!

Just so you don't think that is the only thing we've accomplished lately, we did finish some cute little teabag holders and soap dishes in the shapes of birds and fishes. Also lots of glaze tests, but I'll tell you about them in a few days once they are all done. Here are the little dishes - quite a departure from my usual work!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Winter's Back!

Yes, Winter is back! It's snowing like the dickens out there:

As you can see, driving will be a challenge for a day or two!

Which is sort of too bad, as the steering on truck has just been fixed and it's 'right' again and I'm itching to go someplace.....

But the snow does calm me down and get my mind back into the Studio. All this past week it has been so Spring-like my head was buzzing with thoughts of seeds, garden projects, trail work ideas, everything BUT work. And there's plenty of that in hand, with the Maple Run Studio Tour fast approaching, a new order to start on, the Easter Market not so far off....

And now that the Raven stuff is done, I'm full of ideas about pots decorated with spring wildflowers, and, at the same time, plain blue pots in that fantastic new blue glaze that I'm ready to test on real pots. The Ravens turned out pretty well, I think:

The big guy has a bit of a skittish look to him, but I like his fuzzy tail feathers.

There were two ravens in the big pine behind the house the other day. They sat there and watched me put the garbage bags in the truck, commenting hoarsely as ravens will, and then I guess they followed me to the road as I had quite a mess to clean up later.

Wildflowers are much better behaved!

Friday, February 10, 2012


I've just finished Swiffering my ceiling. (No, that's not a product endorsement, although if the Swiffer people would care to call, I do have a Paypal account.....). It's just that that is the brand my store happened to have, so that is what I bought. I got a box of those duster things because I thought they would be handy for getting the dust off my computer keyboard, and they are. For about a minute each day, my keyboard is dustless.

But today I used the whole box on my ceiling. What started it was the smoke alarm going off. Naturally I raced around the house (not a long run) and made sure nothing was on fire, not even the toaster oven, but then I had to get the alarm down and turn it off. As soon as I brought it down, it did stop. Hmmm. Then I put it back and a minute later, scrrrreeeeeeeeee...... Took it down, it stopped. Put it back, scccrrreeeeeeeee.

Puzzled, I remembered years ago a smoke alarm going off because a small spider had set up housekeeping in the sensor.

Looking more carefully at the alarm and it's seat on the ceiling, I noticed strings of spider-web-like dust hanging down. Sure enough, one kept wafting towards the alarm and setting it off. So that solved that problem, but now I knew my ceiling was an upside-down dust-web farm, yikes. Now, the ceilings in this house are that stipply stuff, so any time you so much as touch them, bits of white stucco fall on your head. And you can't exactly run a dustcloth over them. Aha, I thought, maybe those Swiffer fluffs will work. I got an old mop handle out (kept because I'm too cheap to throw anything potentially useful away and it was a perfectly good handle and you never know when you might need 6 or 7 handles for something), used some rubber bands to attach two of the fluff sheets, and went at it. The fluff sheets grabbed onto the dust webs as soon as they got close so I didn't have to actually touch them, or the ceiling.

It took over an hour but now I have a clean ceiling!

And the smoke alarm has shut up.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Some New Work

As I said in my last post, I'm trying a slightly different approach to planning my work. Instead of making a large batch of, say, mugs, and then a batch of teapots and so on, I decided to make batches by pattern. So earlier in January, as you saw, I made stuff for Blackbird in Almonte, and now I've finished some Pine and Loon pattern things for Three Yellow Tulips in Pakenham.

Three Yellow Tulips is a nifty  little Art and gifts shoppe in Pakenham, a village known for its Five-span Bridge, a historic feat of engineering spanning the Mighty Mississip. OK, spanning the Ontario Mississippi river.

Pakenham is also on the edge of the Calabogie/White Lake cottage area, so I am hoping a cottage-y pattern might appeal. And what is more cottage-y than loons?

Making black loons with white spots was a little tricky - the only way I could do it was to stencil the bird, then scratch through the black into the white glaze with a pin tool.

Now I'm working on Raven things. A very different kettle of fish, or should I say flock of birds? Each Raven is hand-painted and each one is different, so it becomes hard after a while to think of new poses and compositions. This is one way in which pottery is harder than painting. Painters only have to do one loon painting, the potter has to do one for each piece and if said potter is silly enough to be trying to make a living from tableware, there had better be many pieces.... anyway, the hardest thing about the Raven design is inventing it every time. I did spend some time studying the crows along the road the other day and realized that there are an infinite number of Raven poses. I just have to learn how to paint them. It's the gesture that matters, not the detail. Mind you, once the brush hits the greenware, the painter is committed, and the detail had better follow.

It's fun, and satisfying, but nerve-racking all the same! Pictures next post!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January Adventures

I've been working on making some pieces with hearts instead of birds stuck on. Here's a picture of a small group of them:

I made these for the Blackbird shop in Almonte. I figured with Valentine's Day approaching, I could indulge my liking for hearts!

I also made more Bird pieces, including a salad set I rather like. It's not easy to design a series of pieces that work together as a 'line'. I want the shapes to be consistent and the design to work on the different items. In this case, the birds work fine on the flat pieces and the open pieces but I'm darned if I can see how to use them on, say, a teapot or a sugar bowl! Maybe inspiration will strike one of these days....

Everything was ready last Wednesday, but delivering them was another story. First I realized that Thursday morning was my eye doctor appointment. I have been waiting close to three months for this, having broken my glasses back in October, so I wasn't about to miss that. Unfortunately, in the morning there was freezing rain with snow forecast. Since I hate being late for things, I left the house early and thank goodness I did because the roads were dreadful. What would usually be a 35 minute drive took over an hour. My new 'specs will be ready tomorrow or Friday, hurray! (No more going out in public with glasses held together with that old white adhesive tape. A young fellow at the eye doctor's, also waiting, told me how he and his brothers so often had to tape their glasses like that when they were young. I tried to suggest to the waiting room that white tape was a new fashion accessory but I don't think anybody was buying it.)
Thursday afternoon it was just too icy to venture out again.

Friday morning it snowed and snowed..... but I thought I'd try it and of course got the truck totally stuck. I was doing quite well, out of my parking spot and starting down the driveway, and then, in a blink, slid sideways off the driveway into a foot of icy white stuff.

Saturday it took an hour of shoveling and the door mat pushed under the spinning tire to get out.

Good thing I like winter.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Be It Resolved:

Yes, New Year's resolutions can be deadly. Especially other people's. But I can't resist. In the interest of making 2012 the best it can be, I hereby declare that:

1. From now on, 3 or 4 weeks behind will be the 'new normal'.

2. I will stop feeling embarassed and looking around to see if anybody noticed when I run over a curb in one of those parking lots designed for Mickey Mouse cars. I am driving an intermediate-size pickup, darn it. I will instead look like I'm proud to have turned so tight a corner.

3. First Husband is retiring this summer. He is going to have plenty of time to pursue interests he never knew he had: cooking, shopping, laundry......

4. I will stop procrastinating. If you think I've already failed on that one, go back and read #1.

5. I'll finally make that bowl with the cut-down rim for Siobhan. Her broken one has been sitting on the shelf in the Studio for (yikes) 3 years now. She did say 'no hurry'.

6. I am going to teach Kip (First Dog) to enjoy riding in the truck. I don't know how because it is impossible to drive with a large Border Collie trying to sit on your head, but I'll think of something.Maybe First Husband will have to come along. Then Kip will only be trying to sit on my head half the time, and I can drive the other half of the time. Wherever we go, we'll get halfway there.

7. I am going to finish off some of the multitudinous buckets of random glaze that are clogging up the space under the counters in the Studio. I used some last year for vases, planters and so on, but then didn't I go mix up more new ones. Super Helper is getting really tired of mixing up buckets of glaze just so I can dip one bowl. Any customer who asks for a colour I don't have will be persuaded that she would really rather have it in blue.

8. I will blog regularly. 'Way more fun than housework.

9. No more doing the crazy woman dance when the recycling truck barrels on by just as I get to the end of my driveway. I will be calm. I will calmly look around at the scenery. I will calmly turn the truck around and calmly drive back to the house. I will calmly put the recycling back in the garage. Then I will NOT kick First Dog, yell at First Husband or otherwise show my true colours. I will remember #1 above.

Yes, 2012 will be a good year!

Hope yours is too!