I've always been fascinated with clouds. I find their ever-shifting forms beautiful. This summer I've been working on incorporating then into my work and added a series of oil and mixed media sketches. A similarly sky-obsessed friend and I are having a joint show on November 3 in Memphis. She will have oils and watercolors, and I'll be showing new ceramics and my small sketches. If you're local, I hope to see you there.
Last week, before I went out of town for my twentieth college reunion, I shipped out the last of my subscriptions for this quarter. I'm so pleased with these large shallow bowls (8" x 1.5") that I'm adding them to my regular rotation. You'll find them in my shop later this week, on a made-to-order basis. I even kept one for myself, I liked it so much. It's a nice size for a dinner salad or one-dish supper like risotto or stew, anything brothy that might slosh off a plate. There's a nice rim but it's still low enough that you're not eating out of a bowl. I think I've finally figured out the glaze situation with this speckled clay; it's funny how different it is with aqua and white glazes, even though the base is the same. The white glaze seems to melt the manganese speckles more and there's movement to it, resulting in a more subtle bird's egg speckle. With the aqua glaze the speckles pop out but remain stationary. Ceramics chemistry is so fascinating.
I'm going to continue using this shape with my next subscription series. I'm changing the program up a bit. This time, there will be four pieces delivered over the next four months- May through August. Because there are more (and larger) pieces, I'm limiting the available subscriptions to ten. Both the price and the shipping are increasing a bit- larger pieces combined with higher shipping rates have been eating into my business account. The bowls will be the same size as the bowls above, but they'll be creamy stoneware with cobalt illustrations. Each group will have the same botanical theme, a different image each month. At the end of the subscription time, you'll have four large bowls or mugs. The pieces shown below are tests for this series. The largest bowl is the size I'm offering- I made the smaller sizes as a dessert set for my family.
Keep your eyes peeled! And thanks, all of you, for your continued support. I realized at my reunion that I've been doing this seriously since 2001, and full-time since 2009. Adding my teaching job has meant that I cram in my studio hours whenever I can, but it gives me such joy to see my work out in the world and in your homes. Thank you.
Last week I sent out my bud vase subscription. The pieces are one of my favorite patterns- one I've been playing with since early 2104.
This design is inspired by the early work of my favorite Japanese textile designer, Naomi Ito. I began working in my sketchbook with blue ink, wanting to achieve a similar feeling of airy floral clusters, rendered in blue and white. I looked at flowers in my own garden- phlox, sweet william, poppies, zinnias, and roses- and simplified and stylized the blossoms until I had a handful that I was pleased with. Tiny forget me nots crept in after a spring trip to Maine, and foliage has crept in and out as this pattern has evolved. This design marks the point where I began painting directly onto my surfaces rather than using cobalt exclusively as inlay. Over the years I've applied the pattern thicker and more spread out, trailing off in wisps and clustered thickly. It's still one of my favorites. This time I used it on bright smooth English porcelain- I love the contrast between the cobalt and the bright white.
Next week I'll have my cup and bowl subscriptions ready to ship. They are another newer iteration of something I've been making for a long time and have been working on refining in the past year. More on that next week.
Also later this week I'll be opening up my next round of cup or bowl subscriptions. This quarter, they will all be one of a kind sketchbook pieces. More on that later.
Happy week, friends!
I'm beginning to get my spring and early summer events all lined up. This time last year I was ready for a summer-long break. I began my CSA program but after the first of June, I took a huge studio break. This year, I'm just gearing up for high production so that I'll have inventory for events during the months that I teach. Also, I am of the opinion that you look hard things full in the face and figure out how to best deal with it. I'm saying goodbye to my favorite Subaru and getting ready to add a car payment for the first time in over 12 years, so I'm getting my financial ducks in a row before I have to begin shopping. So- shows!
Up above is a series of pieces I began last year- a fundraising project for the Overton Park Conservancy. They've had a brutal year and I'm beginning to work on what *I* can do to help them again. This year's design is the same as last year's, but I think I'm going to make tumblers rather than mugs this year. I've started the plate series and will have them up in my shop and at the June 2 Day of Merrymaking at the park!
First, however, I'm tickled to be at the now third annual Hop Up Pop Up at Me and Mrs Jones' new location in Overton Square, this Saturday from 10-4. I'll be joined by my friends Carrie and Debi, the genius duo who brought you the Urban Barn Market. Mimosas, paint, gardeny goods, sweet pillows and pouches, and pottery. All of my bunny pottery is 25% off at this sale. Hop on in, get your spring on and celebrate Stephanie's new space!
On Wednesday, April 12, I'm opening up my studio for a tiny little Easter open house- 5:30-8. I'll have bunny ware and sweet little bird's egg vases to fill your Easter baskets or give as spring hostess gifts, as well as my regular line of work.
In May, I'm traveling to Jackson, Mississippi for the Stray at Home Festival. From 11-7 on Saturday, May 13, I'll be at Smith Park with numerous other makers for a family-fun day. I'll have lots of little items (and some big ones, too) for sweet Mother's Day gifts. I'm bringing my own mother along for a girls weekend away. Hoping to see Eudora Welty's gardens while we're in Jackson.
The following weekend, on May 20, I'm participating in a mini- barn sale here in Memphis. Lots of garden goodies, antiques, and I hope to offer up some handmade terra cotta flowerpots!
On June 3, I'm happy to participate in the Day of Merrymaking in Overton Park. I'll have lots of little bowls, herb markers, tumblers, vases, and other happy goods. 15% of that day's sales will go to the Overton Park Conservancy. Following that, on June 23-24, I'll have my annual home sale, and I'm just tickled that there will be another grownup summer camp at Me and Mrs Jones. Check her link for more details!
I feel like I just barely squeaked in at the end of March with shipping out my subscriptions. First, I'll start with bud vases. I was at my favorite junk-tique market with a friend last year when I saw this aqua glass ink bottle. Even though the top is cracked, I fell in love with it. It's one of my favorite bud vases. Short, squatty, just at 3" tall, it's the vase I reach for first. The day I launched the bud vase subscription I sat down and threw a baker's dozen of these little vases out of porcelain. When I went to glaze them last week I saw that I was out of my aqua, so mixed more and got the color just a hair more intense than I'd planned, but they're a springy true robin's egg. I've already thrown and decorated April's selection. More on that later!
My bowl and cup subscription items this week were actually a request from someone who's had my work for a long time. I used to make fern-patterned pieces in which I pressed the fern into the wet clay so that it left an impression, fired then glazed the impression with a copper-based green glaze, waxed over the green, then dipped the piece in white glaze. It was lovely, but it took forever to do, my old white glaze was cranky at best, I spilled wax all over the place and had messes to clean up (or fire off and try again) and I just stopped making them. A few months ago, a friend broke her favorite fern piece and asked for another. I had discovered that the copper and water wash I sometimes used for decorating was a near-replica of the old style, with much less hassle, so I tried it with ferns.
The effect is nice. The only issue is keeping the copper in suspension so that I don't get too much copper, because too much breaks through the glaze and isn't safe for food. Happily, this only happened on the outside of pieces, so the inside glaze is 100% food safe, and the spoon rests that I also made are entirely covered with glaze and safely coated. I have made more pieces to decorate and will be mixing a copper-based underglaze, so the flux and clay ingredients will temper the copper. Right now these ferns are a one-of, but if I can safely replicate this design so that it won't leach into food, I will make more.
I thew April's bowls and cups today and am excited about them. I'll be back next week with a listing of spring events. Have a good week, friends!
Happy happy spring! This winter has been funky and not quite seasonal- warmer than it should be snuggled up next to weeks of bitter cold and gray. I'm delighted with today's sunshine and warmth on the first day of spring. I'm doing a little spring shop update this morning- a batch of these faceted cups, more onward pieces, and a few sweet cups and plates.
I have flowing celadon, aqua, and creamy white faceted cups on offer this week. The next round will include pink and faded indigo.
I'll be rolling out more of these berry bowls in some luscious new colors next month. This aqua is much more subdued than my old aqua, but I am just enamored with this need copper green.
And finally, if you're a member of any of my subscription plans, they are all in the kiln. Cups, bowls, bud vases. I got waylaid by spring break and didn't do the firing or glazing I'd planned to. After a month of teaching and preparing for a show, I was wiped out and did not set foot in my studio at all. Apologies for the delay!
Good morning! I ran a glaze firing last night, full of work the Grand Tasting (and shopping!) day at the Vintage 901 wine festival this weekend. Early this morning I pulled two test pieces out of my little kiln (chock full of tiny vases and herb markers for the market) and mused about the continuous changes in my speckled egg line.
I developed these pieces over 10 years ago, throwing egg -shaped vases out of white stoneware, and speckling them with iron oxide between glazing and firing. This worked well for years, until my commercial glaze became unreliable a few years ago. The process was tedious, and the oxide would fly around the kiln, landing on pure white pieces, necessitating a thorough vacuum of the kiln after each speckled firing. Last summer I decided to bring these pieces back. I developed a new aqua glaze and added granular rutile to the glaze. The look was much softer, not quite what I wanted. In the fall, I grabbed an old bag of speckled clay that ran with it. So much easier. I didn't have to worry about adding the speckles, but my process of slip-coating the leather-hard pieces was troublesome. If the work was too pliable, it warped in the slip-coating. Too dry, and the slip cracked off. I loved the look, but it wasn't right.
Knowing that I wanted to make a set of dinnerware out of this work, and frankly missing having a reliable aqua for other pieces, last week I mixed up several new aquas and tested them again. I tried three bases, and here is my favorite of the three (and appropriately, as I took this photo in the morning drizzle, I noticed robins beginning to build their spring nests):
Spring is definitely here in Memphis. Flowers are everywhere. We are in peak daffodil season, trees are leafing out, redbuds are blooming, azaleas are starting. It's both lovely and somewhat confusing. Over the weekend I went to my mother's daffodil lot- she is a collector of antique daffs and has planted a half-acre in the cheery blossoms- and have them all over the house. This morning, I took a picture of these summer snowflakes in my favorite tiny fluted speckled bud vase and a friend and client suggested I open up a bud vase subscription. So I have.
My bud vases are on the tiny side- most under 3" tall, all under 4" tall- sized to hold a clutch of tiny blossoms- violets, a rosebud, the minor bulbs like muscari or the snowflakes- or a single larger blossom- an exuberant zinnia, blowsy summer rose, or late-summer dahlia. Some are quite plain, some highly decorated with cobalt drawings, inlay, stripes, or a bright glaze.
I'm structuring this offering slightly differently. Starting with a 2 month subscription and adding up to a 4 month with price breaks in shipping and vase cost as you make a larger commitment. Unlike my cup and bowl seasonal subscriptions, there is not set start or end date for this listing. The shipping cost is included in the listing; you'll choose the bud vase subscription as your shipping option. Local customers, I'll refund your shipping costs if you agree to pickup.
I hope you enjoy this little offering. I'm grateful to Angie for suggesting it, and I'm going to spend the rest of my morning at the wheel making bud vases! Enjoy your week!
February has been a whirlwind. I can't believe that there are only 8 days left in the month. It's been my dedicated studio month and I've crammed in as much as I possibly can. My dear assistant Ramie left for a new adventure in Maryland (I hope to have her back in the fall) and I've spent the past few weeks training a new assistant who seems born to work in ceramics. We've been exploring the slab roller, finishing details (this is where Izz shines and I do not), glazing, and today we packed the February CSA to ship.
I am tickled with this small body of work. I began working on a few pieces like this last year, inspired by the Japanese textile designer Naomi Ito. I buy a piece (or more) or her Nani Iro double gauze for myself every year for my birthday. I've been buying it since at least 2008, and the pieces I've made (and scraps I've horded) are some of my favorite items in my closet. Ito's work is flowing, botanical, and by turns bold and subtle. I borrowed some of her old floral motifs and washy watercolor style, playing with different resist techniques and going back into the washes with more defined lines. This is some of my favorite new work. I will be curious as to its reception out in the world.
Izz and I have also been working on finishing a large order for the Vintage 901 festival, March 8-10. I've made a range of unique pieces exclusive to this event, only available through them, and will have a table of wares at the Grand Tasting event on Saturday, March 11. Advance tickets are available, but the three-day pass is sold out. I am so looking forward to this new event celebrating Memphis wine, food, music, and the arts, and I'm really honored to be in on the ground floor.
We in Memphis are cautiously enjoying our February false spring. Forsythia is up, daffs are beginning to bloom, my tulips are peeking out, and trees are beginning to leaf out. I know we'll be having another cold snap, but I'm hopeful that the stone fruits beginning to bud out won't be hurt. Enjoy your week, friends, and thanks for reading.
This month has been a busy one. Typically, I try to take January slow and easy, but I've been chasing my tail all month. Between teaching, civic engagement, working to fill orders, prepare for events, and planning ahead, this month passed swiftly. There was a lot of good this month- my blue and white designs have taken a great leap forward, school projects worked well, friendships strengthened. I've learned new skills related to teaching (and some lessons, as well). Last weekend's Fancy Little Flea was my best single day's sales in years (some of these pieces will be headed to my shop this week), and I'm hopeful for this event's future.
I'm planning an online Valentine's sale beginning next week- small happiness for giving or keeping- and an at-home evening the week before Valentine's. Details will be on Instagram and on my newsletter email.
February. The shortest month. Onward we go.
This January is flying by! I'm working teaching and packing in studio time before my assistant leaves for a six-month adventure. We're working hard on filling orders and building inventory for the Fancy Little Flea on the 28th, and I'm updating my shop as we go.
This fall I made a series of Oyster mugs for some friends who had built a beach house. Before the holidays, they asked for some companion pieces- these 10 oz bowl-cum-teacups based on some that they'd enjoyed on a trip to Washington. I made theirs and was so enamored with them that I continued making them. I just love the cobalt oysters on English porcelain. I have four of these, plus two of the large (14oz) mugs in my shop, plus options for custom listings.
Last week I shared my plans for revamping my Emily Dickinson hope/feather cups. I'm tickled with how these have turned out:
I have added these as custom items in my shop here, and in my etsy shop. On etsy the old style is still available. Locally, they're headed to Bingham and Broad, in the Broad Avenue Arts District.
Next week I'll have a preview of the work that's headed to Fancy Little Flea. I can hardly wait.
Have a good weekend friends.
Writing 2017 feels amazing. Only yesterday it was January 1997 and I spent the month painting in a quiet studio in Winston Salem, spending evenings drinking bottles of wine with my roommate while she studied French and I tried to render glowing stained glass panels with oil paints. I would not have guessed then that I'd be spending all day, every day in a pottery studio. My sketchbook practice remains nearly the same, though. After the holiday sales were over I did a studio cleanup and rearrange and uncovered sketchbooks from college, grad school, and early married life. While I've pitched all of my written journals and yearbooks, I'm happy I held on to the sketchbooks. They tell me more about where I was and what I was working through, as well as providing threads that connect all of the past Melissas with who I am now.
I have been thinking about changes in my current roster of work, running them through my head for some time, only just now beginning to rough out the ideas. I spent a morning last week playing with text placement for my Emily Dickinson cup. I believe I've made my last two in the old style, with large text and feather inlaid in the cup. I've been dissatisfied with it for a while, ready for a change. The facebook "on this day" feature recently popped up with the first iteration of this design, from 2012. Five years is a long time to make the same thing the same way, so I'm playing with changes. I feel like my lettering has changed a great deal, and I rarely use inlay anymore. I have not abandoned it entirely, but I've come to like my brush script more than my inlay lettering.
This first round of modified design cups are ready to go into the kiln. I'll have more on etsy and my website in February. I'm planning to offer these in blue and iron oxide rusty-brown. The black was perfect for inlay but is too harsh for brush lettering. Excited to see how these fire out.
This is going to be a busy month. I begin teaching again next week, and on the 28th I'm participating in A Fancy Little Flea, a one-day market featuring Miss Mustardseed Milk Paints and sponsored by my dear friend (and fairy godmother) Stephanie Jones. I've got lots of goodies headed that way- hope to see you if you're local!
Finally, slots are open for my subscription club! Find out more about it here. I begin shipping in February- one box a month through April.
Happy New Year!
Good Monday morning, friends. I have finished all of my official sales and am ready to ease into holiday-making with my family. I am so appreciative of everyone who came out to buy my work for themselves for for gifts for loved ones over the past weeks. I've had words of such affirmation that mean more than you might know.
This year has been a really difficult one. Everything that could break has (kilns, multiple times, cars, the struts under my cast iron bathtub), the entire country has been (and still is) in a tizzy over the election, afraid of what's to come, afraid of the other side's intentions. So much polarization. Many small businesses, including mine, have felt the effects of this fear and have sat through shows with low sales and watched our online sales plummet. We've had to become more resourceful, rethink business strategies, take on second jobs, put things off. We've all pondered our career path, wondering what we should be doing. Can I support myself and my family? Does my work have any real meaning? How am I playing an effective role in my community, making art/pottery/textiles? In my creative circle in Memphis, we are all ready to put this year to bed and move on. Onward.
The word onward has been important to me since I was a young adult. My dear grad school pal Katharine used this word a lot. Whenever one of us faced trials or pains, she would look at me and declare ONWARD! About a month ago my friend Martha Kelly, a painter and printmaker, made a letterpress banner proclaiming onward- it hangs over my stove. I look up at it, ponder it, multiple times a day.
Finally, my version of Onward is ready. In September I made a dozen clay bird stamps to use on a series of St. Francis tiles. I set them aside, then one day, when my assistant had rolled out a table full of small trays, I pressed a few into the damp trays, painted the birds blue, then bisqued them. They weren't ready. Martha introduced her Onward banner, and I knew that it was time to use our word. Since November, I've made cups, trays, teacups and saucers, mugs, and little bowls. I melted the entire first batch when I over-fired my kiln, then I sold most of my second locally, but I have about a dozen pieces to offer today, with more to come.
I was brought up to give 10% of my earnings to the church. This is still important to me; occasionally I set aside another percentage to give to other charities. These onward pieces are designated for three organizations that I feel do good work for the marginalized locally, nationally, and internationally. First, in Memphis, Just City works for criminal justice reform. Second, Southern Poverty Law Center works to fight injustice, extremism, and for civil rights all over America. Third, Episcopal Relief and Development provides relief work in many areas, but their work with refugee communities around the world is dear to my heart. 15% of each sale of these pieces will be divided between these three groups.
I am grateful for the opportunity to use my work to help others. Thank you for helping me to achieve this goal.
I am about to load up my glaze kiln of work for this last sale of my season (unless I get a wild hair and have a little wine open house on the 15th for last minute gifts- if so I'll announce that here, on IG, on Facebook) , which has been harried and full, much like this year, which has been harried and full.
Locally, I have work at Bingham and Broad (including a selection of bulb pots, my favorite grab-and-go gift), and this week Falling Into Place picked up several dozen of my Memphis love porcelain ornaments. I'll also have fresh stock of these (and Nashville, too) this weekend at Martha's.
I am very much looking forward to ending this year and beginning fresh in 2017. There's been a lot of growing pains for me, my family, and for so many friends this year. I'm looking at changing some things, streamlining/simplifying/scaling up (can I do all three?) my studio practice, fitting in more regular art time, and looking at new sales venues. Maybe even giving Etsy a try again.
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours was the most relaxing we've had in years. It's been nice to work a little, visit a little, eat a little this holiday before my busy season begins in earnest. By big kiln is up and running again, and my small kiln is running as I type. I'm in the studio to throw another round of bulb pots for my sales, and then I'll cut out another load of my "onward" slab-built pieces. We had planned to spend Black Friday in the kayak, but it was cloudy and chilly earlier, so we're going tomorrow, instead.
Sunday, from 11-5, I'll be at Tsunami for their annual Artist Holiday Market. There's everything from pottery to prints to children's goods, locally screen-printed tees, art for your wall, handmade paper, candles, and gorgeous handmade clothing. I'll have small gifts available- birds' egg cups, ornaments, bulb pots, bud vases, small Memphis map plates, and a few of my "onward" pieces.
Next Friday and Saturday, from 9-5 daily, I will be at the Southern Junkers Holiday Market, which is a new one for me. It is at the Memphis Agricenter. I'll have my full range of pottery available. Other vendors include vintage and antiques, as well as artisan foods and crafts.
Sunday 12/4 is my neighborhood school's third annual holiday sale. The Snowden Winter Arts Bazaar, from 1-5 in the afternoon. Small gifts again- bulbs, Memphis map plates, and ornaments.
Monday, 12/5, I'm participating in the LeBonheur Club's annual Gift and Art Market at the Church of the Holy Communion, from 5-9 pm. Small gifts, plus a few small platters for this show.
Finally, I will be showing at Martha Kelly's studio sale again this year, Dec 10 and 11 from 12-5. I am planning to have more bulb pots and bud vases, plus tea things and the "onward" line.
I was not able to stock as much work as I'd hoped on my website, but I do have cup and bowl subscriptions open for holiday giving. I'll send along a card for your gift presentation.
More soon. Happy holidays, friends!
This week I shipped out the last installment of my fall CSA. I hadn't planned to do another set of Maine stones after my early-spring show, but after my October trip, Maine spoke to me:
These nesting dipping bowls and tall tumblers are all porcelain, thrown and trimmed, then coated in colored slip- a variety of grays I mixed this winter. Sadly, the third component of the nesting bowls- a copper-slip coated mini bowl- all cracked and broke during firing (pottery, particularly porcelain, can't be rushed). After the slip has set up, I embedded small pieces of sea glass and carved through the slip to mimic my favorite striped beach stones.
For my last shipment, I included a small surprise in each package, and instead of a copy of my artwork, I sat down for some personal art therapy and painted my stones. Hearts, stripes, copper green, gray, speckled granite- all of the pieces of the Maine coastline that gets me through my year inland until I can return to the coast.
I am adding a winter CSA this week, open for holiday giving. It will begin shipping in February, through March, and into April. I'm offering bowls and cups again. Either option is $100 with a $40 priority shipping cost per order.
Hello and happy Friday! I've been working like mad building inventory for a slate of sales large and small over November and December, stocking my online store (here under "shop" by category and here, though I don't keep that one as well-stocked), taking care of kiln maintenance issues, and getting my holiday schedule hammered out.
This weekend, I'll be at Me and Mrs Jone's second birthday party at the Germantown store from 10-2. I'm so excited to debut the first few pieces of my Blue Willow inspired line. I've taken just a few elements from this classic pattern and inlaid them in cobalt on my creamy porcelain trays. I have just five pieces this weekend, which I made before I left for Maine, but will have more as the holiday season progresses. I really love how the cobalt has a mind of its own and leaves echoes of where it's been on the white ground. I'll also have some of these pieces, and will begin my annual paperwhite narcissus celebration:
I have lots of blue and white trays and cups in all patterns. Faux bois, moths, sweet little birds, and a few surprises. I have a good number of the speckled birds egg work in stoneware and porcelain (the pale aqua stoneware is pictured), and I have six pre-chilled paperwhite kits ready (the bulbs and pebbles are ready to go in whichever container you choose. More bulbs are en route!) . PLUS Memphis map plates and Memphis love ornaments. Lots of goodies available this weekend!
After Thanksgiving I will be at the annual Tsunami holiday art sale on Nov 27 and at the Southern Junkers Holiday Show Dec 2 and 3. This is a new show for me, but it's full of lots of vintage, farmhouse style antiques, and handmade wares. Finally, I will show again with Martha Kelly at her annual studio sale on Dec 11 and 12.
It does not seem like it's been a week since I returned from my Maine trip. In all honesty, it feels like it's been much much longer (because life is full, isn't it, and fast) and the holidays are right around the corner.
I stayed with my friend Sarah (it is wonderful to be in her serene space- full of light, beauty, texture, and simple, thoughtful details) and had myself a self-styled art retreat. Every day I woke at dawn and got myself down to the water where I drew, painted, thought, collected tiny shells, striped rocks, saw love everywhere, gazed at clouds, marveled at the changing colors and cool breezes (lo, it is still 90 degrees in Memphis on Nov 1). There was much eating, knitting, visiting friends, and driving around midcoast and downeast, getting my fill of Maine and the sea for another year.
I have so many ideas to explore, but they will wait until after the holidays.
Later this week I'll be back with a holiday preview and my sale dates for November and December. I have some family obligations that mean I have canceled my studio sale, but there are plenty of other events around Memphis to make up for this cancellation.
Good morning! Today is the last weekday of our fall break- we've been kayaking, working in the studio and in preparation for teaching in November, resting, working on expanding a treehouse, and shipping out this month's CSA subscription. Next week I head out for *my* fall break/art retreat and I've tried to pack in as much as possible before heading out. I thought I'd give you a little preview of this month's work:
While I generally have a bit of a game plan before the CSA is introduced, the real work begins in my sketchbook. In the past few years I've played around with sashiko embroidery/mending and dying textiles and yarn (and my own clothing) to refresh and transform pieces that had lost their sparkle, were damaged (ripped jeans and a beautiful skein of cashmere that was sadly moth-infested), or were perfectly serviceable but I just didn't like anymore. These all became canvas for creative embroidery, darning, or transformation by bright ultramarine synthetic dyes and natural indigo vats. Both the sashiko and dye processes can be unpredictable, slightly messy, and definitely show the hand of the maker. I've watched my good friends Sarah and Melissa begin their own dye studios (Sarah works with a range of bright colors and Melissa uses natural plant dyes, including my recently transformed indigo yarn, which began its life with me as a bag of insipidly baby blue cashmerino that sat in storage for two years) and admired the range of color and intensity in their work.
And so: this month's work
I threw large noodle/ramen bowls and mugs out of my regular porcelain right as September turned into October and used my pattern tracing wheel on the pieces once they were leather hard (I learned the hard way not to use it on wet clay- the wheel gets "boogered up" and won't turn, but makes a single line rather than ticking marks) making a slow spiral around each piece. The ticking marks the wheel leaves have always reminded me of a running sitch, which is the first stitch anyone learns when sewing. It is also the basis of sashiko. Once the bowls and cups (I attached the cup handles after making the ticking design) were decorated with ticking marks and were on the firm side of leather hard, I painted on my cobalt wash and set them aside to dry a bit longer before carrying them down to the sink to rinse off the excess cobalt. This is where things get interesting. Cobalt oxide is such a powerful colorant that even if it looks like all traces of the wash has been removed, it hasn't. I rinse the pieces under running water, gently rubbing (in one direction) with a sea sponge to remove the wash from the outside of the piece, knowing that the colorant stays in the incised lines, creating an inlay design. I also know that I never, not ever, remove 100% of it. After the bisque firing, whatever I didn't remove shows up. If I'm feeling really ticky, I will put on a mask and sand off the extra cobalt. This month I decided to leave the excess deposits where they were, much in the same way indigo leaves its mark in varying intensities on textiles. Some bowls and cups have bright patches of cobalt showing through the clear glaze, and others have fainter blooms left from their rinse. These didn't show up after the bisque fire but only made themselves known after the glaze firing.
I found this whole (truly) wabi-sabi process interesting and unsettling. I generally like precision in my work and the process of using materials like cobalt oxide, glazes, and kilns challenges my notions of what my work should be. Porcelain reshapes itself during the heat, glazes run or don't run contrary to my expectations, oxides show up where they aren't expected. Part of a CSA program is accepting what comes, whether as a farm share or in this work, both for the recipients and the creators, and I have to fight the urge to make the work I'm sending out as close to perfect as I can get. So it's appropriate, this month, that the make-do make-art influences of hand-dyeing and sashiko mending should be my inspiration. .