Friday, February 29, 2008

our dishes

I finished a set of tumblers for our family this week, and thought I'd share the whole table service, now that it's complete.seafoam tumbler!
"goat" plates (also the small matching bowl)
"Utah" bowls. The first set-for-us I made, 8 years ago. 6 bowls, each with a pretty leaf I gathered on my walks with baby Audrey during our stay in Utah while Nathan was working on his MBA. 2 scrub oak, 2 aspen, 2 maple: all trees that say "UTAH!" to me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

daily lovely

My mom always said she loved the way chrysanthemums smelled. I, scoffing at them because you could buy them in the grocery store, thought she lied.

But now,

Ahhh! Carnations! Sweet spice!

And as delicately lovely as any bloom.


you are beautiful

hope revolution

I had scribbled out the you are beautiful address to write them for stickers sometime last year, and promptly forgot all about it until I came across hopeREVO's flickr pool. This time, I used their template to print English on one side of a piece of cardstock and languages on the other.

Used some of the hopeREVO phrase ideas to make my own drop cards.

Best to be anonymous with this sort of thing, of course, but I am glad for the inspiration started when I saw it elsewhere, so dilemma-ed & decided to share.

printed & ready for tomorrow!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


three particular nature-gifts this week:
a capitol rainbow (and the 70-degree day for our picnic-and-museum outing!)
"Snowflake Bentley" snow
a lunar eclipse, through the branches of our 80-year-old sycamore

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

community crafting: porcelain

Last week presented two opportunities for community crafting, both actually solicited (I'm always trying to get people to craft with me; the dearth of craft buddies is a tragedy of the move). First, the teenage girl's group at my church, which I help advise, had a sleepover on Friday, and one of the girls asked that I bring clay. Done! A friend from the past recently moved within visiting distance, and her kids wanted to work clay with me as well when they came on Saturday.

For both of the groups, I chose to bring cone 10 porcelain clay. It fires to a lovely glistening white, so is beautiful unglazed. Since I'm not hosting a second crafting session for either group, the glazing work will be my own labor. And since I'm (perennially) time-crunched, most of the wee creations will remain unglazed and still look terrific. I've also used cone 6 porcelain clay bodies, but none of them have vitrified (turned glass-like) as well as the high-fire clay. They're still smooth and nice, but not as shiny or white.

Even if you don't have access to a kiln and pottery studio, working with "real" clay is not out of your reach. When I was in between studios in Nashville, for instance, a friend approached me about making doves for Christmas, and we just looked up "ceramics supply" in the yellow pages. The warehouse we found sold us bags of clay (most are in the $15/25# range) and would also fire for us, at a fairly low price per square inch. If you find a local ceramist who teaches lessons, I bet they may be willing to add a few of your pieces to a kiln they're firing for a small fee.

I lump my basic handbuilding tips into two categories, which overlap: (1) avoid explosions and (2) keep it together: attaching clay parts. Explosions in the kiln usually happen because trapped air within the piece expands at the extreme temperatures of firing. Thick walls are particularly problematic. I gave my groups this rule: nothing fatter than your finger. When attaching parts, an effective seal will also be carefully crafted to avoid air bubbles.

The technique for "keeping it together" with clay is called "scratch and slip". Any time you want to attach 2 things, they need to stick to something. Have you ever noticed that gluing glass or varnished wood is particularly challenging? That's because the surface doesn't provide any good "hand holds" for your paste of choice. The solution with those situations is to lightly sand the surface to provide a grip. When attaching clay, you need to provide similar good grip, though with clay, the goal is to really allow the two pieces to join and become one. Scratching both surfaces thoroughly provides the gripping surface as well as allowing an interaction between the two similar to a dovetailed drawer, though a very sloppy one: a nice tangle of shared clay. Extra stickiness (the glue) is provided by "slip". Slip is water-thinned clay. You can make a little dish of slip by adding water to some crumbled clay, stirring to a paint consistency, and brush it on both surfaces before squishing them together to extrude all air between them. I usually let the clay make its own slip by using an old wet toothbrush and scrubbing the scratched surface until it is good and muddy. Another key to ensuring a good seal is to let your clay dry s l o w l y. As it dries, clay shrinks, and two joined pieces can pull away from each other. When I attach handles to mugs, I cover them tightly with 2 or 3 layers of plastic for 24 hours, then lightly cover them, rotating every few hours, for another couple of days. When the clay dries slowly, the moisture has a chance to redistribute, so everything shrinks together. When a thin rim or handle dries fast and first, it shrinks faster than the rest of the piece and can crack. Which is tragic after all of your hard work...

I was compelled to really explain that. Okay, some photos. I love both of these because there is obviously some hard work going on.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


It would be nice to post the amazing hand-stitched sweeties I made for my valentines this year, but...I didn't do. Preoccupied with the boxes of pottery and project superstar. And snow days. The girls have had the last 2 days off of school and we accomplished zero. Marian hasn't even made a Valentine for her dad this year. Although we have Valentine making parties every year and see the glory of a handmade Valentine, the girls actually like the novelty of picking out the boxes of classic little preprinted cardstock nonsense. This year, Audrey chose Tweety Bird and Marian some motion valentines. Not quite as adorable as my young friend Miles' Valentine sentiments.

They did, however, give soap as an alternative to candy. I'm hoping the heart-shaped, pink, & glitter components make it seem a little less party-poopery. They made it themselves and stamped the backs of still-soft soap with rubber stamps of their initials that we had made a couple of weeks ago. Anne Marie of Bramble Berry donated a big ol' chunk of white melt-and-pour for project superstar, and it's quite lovely to work with. I did buy some official soap-making stuff at Michaels, but have found that the best we have to work with we already had: these silicone ice cube trays from IKEA were marvelous molds, and, unimpressed with the soap scent I bought, realized I could use the Bath and Body Works home fragrance oils I had to mix with the base. So Marian's hearts were scented Cucumber Lime Verbena. I love that smell. Audrey's piano teacher had CLV soap, and I used the bathroom every lesson just so I could use it :).

I'm remembering more things I have, and am starting to feel a little better. If I can just pull it all together... I have a bunch of little porcelain hearts I made to label with reasons I love them. Packaged, of course, in wee origami boxes. Made with red glassine. I also bought some little albums at the ArtCo factory outlet to fill with photos of family love (this will certainly be a late valentine's gift), and am framing separate copies of the valentines I bought for the girls from ouou.
I love this because I love her bold graphic illustrative style, and also because it looks so like my girls. Especially appropriate is the title: "In this together", and the older sister helping and protecting the younger. Audrey is the willing donor for Marian's bone marrow transplant this spring. I want them each to have one while they're apart, a reminder of each other and their sweet love. They're really fantastic sisters.

N gets this good etsy find from chewing the cud: Appropriate, 'cause he's that way.

simply a matter of perspective

This year I tried to give a little twist on love: Of course "I love you!" but then a bit of "let's love a little more all 'round", too. This seemed like a better idea at the bookstore a couple of weeks ago, but now the tie is a little loose. I bought the girls New Testament activity books for the grown up parts of church where they try to sit still and be quiet ("Jesus taught us how to love" is my tie in...), and this really beautiful book called Weeds for N.N sometimes pretends he's a misanthrope, but I, lover of his heart, know it's just that people break his heart a little too much. The gorgeous, color-saturated photography in Weeds captures the beautiful in the ordinary. It is, as the author states, simply a matter of perspective.
I did fill heart tins with stickers & plastic rings & a red felted wool heart, plus buy a load of candles & a perfect rose: regular cheesy valentine stuff, but I like the sentiment of us seeing more a way to love.

Monday, February 11, 2008


I love all of the amigurumi animals I see, but my crocheting skills are limited. Plus I don't really enjoy it, so I don't see them improving in the near future...

Luckily, I have a source. Well, several, since I've made a few etsy purchases :). But, closer to home, my little sister Camie can whip things out. She's a crafting monster when she's not working on her wildlife management master's. Like finishing a hat for Marian in 1/2 hour. Our grandpa watched the whole thing in amazement. I sent her an owl pattern link and a hedgehog hint, and when we came to visit last week, she showed up with a fuzzy hedgie and did the owl while we talked. I trimmed the hedgie's face down and added hematite beads for eyes, because that's what I had on hand. I think I might like something bigger, but I do like him so far. Groovy owl eyes, eh? How lovely to be home and have my mom's impressive button stash to raid...

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I arranged a knit-for-pots trade with my friend Sally, and when a package came from her yesterday, I naturally assumed it was the blanket I'd ordered (a lovely hand-spun silk-merino from etsy, of course!).

Stunned to find it full of handmade Sally treasures (impeccable stitches are putting me to shame today), plus more from her fantastic children (and supplies and donations to the superstar cause from other friends in Nashville.

Another friend, Jamie (we're related, but never figured out our family tree exactly) made this slick scarf: folded diagonally, then the corners sewn over either side of a large hair elastic. It makes the silk scarf actually stay in place (a problem we've found with this purchase) We will have more of these!

This was the triumph of the package, a patient smock and love scrubs made to fit the Waldorf dolls we made together from magic cabin kits a couple of years ago. My dolls get lots of pajamas, to match the girls' Christmas pajamas. Sally's get wardrobes.
Sometimes I think I'm settled here in PA and then, though I am lucky in my acquaintances here, realize how very much my Nashville group are friends of the heart.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

60 degrees

I took advantage of the balmy weather to take pottery photos outside. The girls played in the yardand "helped" (she likes this one).
I took advantage of Jon Stewart's always-entertaining (ah, the color bit!) election coverage and a movie I won't admit enjoying to fold laundry and cut up stamps (for project superstar) instead of posting in my shop. But I did start this morning!And I took advantage of having darling pots all over my bedroom/office to use them. Hello, Jordan almonds!

(this is my 100th post!)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

new pottery

will start to list tonight.

A peek that I meant to post before I left on vacation, but was just too tired: