Barrel Cactus

Often times during the creation process I’ll think of a particular texture pattern based on the tool I use to create it or maybe what the pattern brings to mind when I view it. Sometimes the way I refer to a particular pattern would make absolutely no sense whatsoever to any of my customers, prompting me to find a better way to describe it.

Both the best and worst parts of creating a series of work can be in the naming. It can be fun, but hard sometimes to come up with a universally recognizable title.

The texture pattern on this planter seemed the exception to the rule of difficulty. I created these lovely vertical lines using on of my own handmade texture rollers. Ever since first making this roller I have thought that the lines it created look like bamboo. Others who saw me using it always seemed to think so as well without any prompting from me. It seemed a no brainer to call this pattern my bamboo series.

That is until along came one of my former students who casually remarked when I posted the image above on Instagram that the planter looked like a barrel cactus.

Well, drat!

Now I have to decide if my original name for this texture still makes sense, or should I embrace what could be an even more recognizable and compelling title? What do you guys think??

Check out all of my planters here.

 

Snake Skin Pants

This is the best part of doing shows … getting to hear what my customers have to say about my work. Like the one customer who upon seeing my planters, like the one pictured, said they looked like Snake Pants! I’ve heard this off and on throughout my time creating planters, well not the snake part, but that my planters all give off a vibe of pants.

This customer took it a step further to add the snake part for one of my newest planter designs and I will be forever grateful! You see I have been struggling for weeks to figure out what to name this new design and all of the names I had come up with just … fell short.

So introducing my newest series of planters – Snake Skin – the pants part is silent! : )

Look for planters to be available again online starting next week.

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.

Blue Gold

I was so sure about this plate when it first came out of the glaze kiln. I kept thinking to myself, why oh why did I use that combination of blues and gold-brown? I brought it home along with some other plates and filed it away in my storage container for plates. I guess I figured I’d decide what to do with it later.

A few weeks ago I was going through all of my plates to pull out work for a show at the 2nd Story Gallery at the Historic Walker House in San Dimas and found it again. Having previously decided it was strange, I went to put it in the nope pile when I took another look at it.

I noticed how nicely formed it was – a small amount of curve, but not too much. The foot is picture perfect since it was heavily photographed for a recent blog post on my plate feet. The colors don’t seem as weird to me as they first did a few weeks ago.

They say that you should live with every piece you don’t like for at least a little bit before deciding whether it’s good or not. I guess “they” whoever they are, are right.

Check out this plate along with others in my collection here.

Feet!

I have a love/hate relationship with mugs. On one hand, they are great forms for experimentation. It’s just a mug after all, not some intricate sculpture or a large vase. At the same time though, the functionality of mugs is an extremely personal thing. A person can love a mug until they pick it up. The handle has to be just right for them. Their nose has to fit comfortably in the opening.

The best thing about my mugs are the bottoms – the absolute last thing you typically think about when thinking about mugs. All of the bottoms of my mugs are unusual in some way. One example is the form I used for this mug pictured above – it has feet! Four tiny little feet to be exact and they are loved by many mug aficionados.

I love when I hear, “I have so many handmade mugs at home I can’t possibly buy another one, but these are so different.” Forget handles and nose fit, I’m just going to keep focusing on the feet!

Check out my collection of surprisingly functional mugs with comfy handles, nose room and, oh yeah, great bottoms here!

I’m Not A Very Symmetrical Person

Doing art shows is a lot of work. Packing all of your work up, loading the car, unloading the car, setting up the booth, re-packing any unsold work, loading the car and finally unloading the car. The thing that makes it all worth it … beyond the art sales although those are important too … is getting to talk about your work with complete strangers.

Strangers have no compulsions whatsoever to be nice. In fact, oftentimes they can be quite rude when they think you can’t hear them talking to their friend. Its one of the best ways to get unfiltered feedback and commentary on what you’re creating.

If there was a theme to the discussions I had about my work this past Sunday at the Downtown Redlands Art Walk it was symmetry. I can’t quite remember when I’ve talked so much about the fact that my work isn’t symmetrical before in a single afternoon. It’s true though, it is not symmetrical … intentionally not symmetrical.

Most people who talked about it with me expressed that that was what they liked best about my work. It wasn’t perfection, it wasn’t round – it “had attitude,” as one woman said talking about my mugs.

All art is essentially a self portrait on some level, so my standard answer to the symmetry questions goes something like, “Well I’m not a very symmetrical person.” This is both true and not true. I have a tiny bit of OCD when it comes to certain things, don’t we all, and they have to absolutely be that particular way.

I think my art is my way of challenging that more controlled side of me. The more wonky or expressive I can make my work while still retaining functionality is my way of saying, “Up yours!” to my inner control freak. I like to think it’s a healthy practice for me as long as I don’t go too far with it and start walking asymmetrically. I’m enough of a klutz already!

In the Running for Prom Queen

This cute rustic planter with hints of blue has been my most viewed planter listing or really any listing over the past few weeks. It happens occasionally that one listing will dominate the day or week in number of views, but not like this one – it has been at the top for several weeks.

As a business owner, you have to wonder just what is it about this particular planter that has garnered so much attention. Why not that planter over there that is perfectly wonderful too? How can I instill this pot’s “it” factor into all of my work?

Don’t get me wrong, I think this piece is a great. I love the texture design created using one of my own handmade stamps. I love the pattern created when the stamp repeats and I especially love the hint of blue in the center of each repeat.

I’ll leave the link to this spring’s hot new trending planter right here so you can ponder what all the fuss is about along with me!

Creativity Block?

Blocks are not just for writers anymore – all of us can find ourselves struggling to think up new ideas and fresh perspectives. The trick is not to avoid those times when creativity blocks happen because let’s be honest, you can’t escape, but instead to look upon it as an opportunity.

I find that I go through cycles with the texture patterns I create in my work with the same patterns emerging over and over until I’m stuck in my comfort zone. Since what else is a creativity block except getting nice and comfy, all curled up in the same old thought processes?

I have some tried and true methods for helping me break out.

For an easy fix, I set-up out in the “wild” – somewhere that will bring me into contact with lots of people. I’ve always found engaging others as part creators of my work forces me to solve for the unexpected. I never quite know what someone will do when I give them free reign to place an imprint a piece of clay. Viewing this unknown as a problem that has to be solved (I’m not allowed to simply scrap it out of the gate) usually introduces fresh ideas into my work.

Sometimes though I’m stuck just a little bit more than one of my quick fixes will help. I find in those situations that I need to completely leave behind my main medium, clay, and explore other mediums. Whether it’s through research into these other mediums or actually creating non-clay works, it puts me in back in the realm of a complete newbie. I can’t fall back on any past experience, but it typically doesn’t exist for these other areas of art. I might explore outside of the world of clay for a day or a few weeks before feeling that I can return recharged for my work.

What do you do to help get yourself out of your comfort zone?

 

Oh, That Drip

Glazing … it tends to be the bane of most ceramic artist’s existence.

Why? Well, where to start?

I suppose I could begin with sharing that the glazing process is a chemical reaction activated by the heat of the kiln. Before firing glazes all tend to look kind of pinkish, brownish, white-ish, red-ish or sometimes grey-ish, but certainly never the color they will be after firing. Its enough to drive a person batty imagining the “correct” color.

Catch those quotes in my last statement? Chemical reactions also mean that glazes don’t necessarily combine based on the color wheel or logic. My favorite example of this is a beautiful turquoise matte glaze that turns maroon when a clear is applied over it instead of a shiny turquoise color.

I could go on about glaze application thickness and application methods, but I fear I’m digressing from that drip I mentioned. All of that activating heat also means that glaze doesn’t like to stay where you put it. Instead glaze tends to run and pool. This can be extremely helpful as well as frustrating.

You see, glaze that runs can run right off of the pot onto the kiln shelf fusing your pot to the shelf. So, that intriguing little drip when it happens is sometime that gets ceramic artists very excited. This is especially true when that lovely drip stops just before disaster and instead leaves behind a focal point on your piece.

You can find this bottle and more of my work at Artisans Etc. in Big Bear.