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!

Unusual Tape

You may know that I recently have gotten really into using custom masking tape stickers to create texture on my mugs and planters. This mug is a little different. The tape I’m using to create the skinny lines of bare clay actually comes exactly this super thin width!

The moment I found this super thin tape at the store I knew I had to have it! I don’t think I even had any idea what I would do with it when I bought it at Daiso.

Weeks past and one day at the studio I was so over cutting out custom sized masking tape stickers. I wanted to stop for the day, but I still have a handful of mugs to sticker. That’s when I remembered this tape. It was so super easy to quickly add vertical lines of varying lengths around my remaining mugs.

I really love how this particular masking tape resist design turned out … which is nice since it’s so easy to do in comparison to other patterns!

Oh, and just what is this super skinny tape supposed to be used for when its not decorating mugs? It creates dividing lines on dry erase boards. Check out this mug and others like in my Etsy shop!

 

Bark vs Snow

It can be so hard to know where an artist gets the inspiration for their work – such is the case with this lovely little bark mug.

I’ve been making fake tree bark, or faux bois if you want to be fancy, in clay for what seems like forever. An artist I met some years back, David Gilbaugh showed me the basics of creating bark and even gifted me a special tool he had made to help create realistic bark.

I’ve never achieved David’s level of expertise – he’s a true master and can accurately re-create the bark of any specific tree with ease. Definitely check out his work if you get a chance as it is stunning.

I can, however, create basic generic tree bark easily. It makes a great parlor trick to show my students and I’ve been pulling it out of my back pocket for years as a fun impromptu demo. In fact this mug was created during one such demo a few weeks back.

I was showing some studio folks not in my class the mug pre-glaze and one of them offered up that I must be getting inspired by all of the tire tracks in the snow now that I live in the mountains.

Sadly, no. Snow has yet to inspire anything, but hard physical labor in me this winter season. Have I mentioned how much I *enjoy* shoveling?

I did, however, love getting the reminder that even in what appears an easily interpreted piece of art can take on so many variations when viewed through another lens.

Check out this mug and more non-snow inspired work in my Etsy shop!

“T” Cup

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One of my all time favorite mug designs. The best part, I’m easily amused, is the play on words off of the “T” stamp on this mug and teacups. It makes me laugh! The other best part is that this particular mug design really embodies my style. It features layers of texture stamps yet not so complicated that I spend more time than I should on glazing. It is actually the just right blend for me.

This particular glaze combo, I’ve tried a couple, is the one I like the best. Sure, I’ve created a blue and green stunner that sold right away, but this softer look really catches my eye. It is just so pretty in pink.

Check it out along with all of my mugs in my online Etsy shop!

Inked

 

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I have a love/hate relationship with shino glazes. Shinos are a type of glaze that is heavily dependant on the kiln environment, so you never quite know how they will turn out. Occasionally, you’ll get a result like I did with this mug. Instead of all of the wonderful burnt oranges and grey carbon trapping swirling around, I got white. Blah!

Now, I have nothing against the color white per se, it just isn’t my favorite glazing option. Fortunately, while I didn’t get the results I was hoping for I did get to do the next best thing to this mug – I inked it!

Shinos, as a glaze, don’t always fit the clay body as perfectly as other glazes and when it fires without the heavy reduction of oxygen in the kiln environment it tends to go white, but also tends to crackle. If you look closely at the picture you’ll see minute cracks in the glaze surface. Now, since I know that this can happen, I use a non-shino glaze as a liner on the inside of the mug to prevent any food safety issues from bacteria getting in the cracks.

These little cracks go all the way to the surface of the clay body and using india ink you can darken the cracks of the lines. It seems weird and it is, but it is also super cool. If you notice, I only inked some of the sections on this mug to help create a little bit more contrast and interest in the surface.

Since I’m essentially staining the clay body the ink won’t wash away (I’ve already scrubbed this mug to remove any residual ink) making it completely safe to use.

For those of you interested in learning more about shinos, as a glaze category, I’ve linked here to a great article on the origins and principles of shino glazes – they truly are a breed apart.

Check out this mug and more in my online shop!

Masking Tape Madness

Every once in awhile new inspiration comes along and you have no choice, not really anyways, to follow it. That is exactly the case for me recently. I ran across an article in Ceramics Art Daily by Lindsay Rogers about creating your own glaze resist “stickers” out of masking tape and parchment paper a few months back.

I search for tips and tricks like this all the time to incorporate into projects for my students and that’s how I viewed this idea originally.

I purchased the supplies, taught the class and it was so much fun! I started putting custom cut stickers on all of my demo pots as well as another teacher’s demo pots. I just might have been a little teensy bit obsessed!

Fast forward to the next time I sit down to make some mugs. I was feeling rather lazy that day and didn’t want to pull out all of my texture makers, so I made a bunch of texture-free mugs thinking I’ll use some masking tape stickers on them.

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It was even better that I could have thought! When I glaze work that I created as a demo for my class I tend to get really wild with the combinations. It’s usually a good break from my super detailed brushed glazing method I use for my personal work. Creating custom stickers for my own mugs was like a little bit of both – exact and thoughtful as well as wild since I wasn’t sure if my patterns would turn out.

I really, really love the finished look. Its almost reminiscent of my planters and vases I’ve created that have both glazed and unglazed sections. I can’t wait to try other patterns as well as a two-toned glazed effect using the stickers.

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Look for more of these mugs to come as well as new planters in this glazing style as well!! The first batch of mugs is currently available in my Etsy shop here.

Flashback Mug

sam_1554This mug makes me laugh! It’s a perfect example of the kiln gods’ way of reminding you that you are NOT in control and sometimes ceramics happens.

That’s one thing that everyone who works in clay (or really any art medium I would imagine) has to come to accept. You can do everything “right” and it will still come out wrong. In the case of working with clay, there are so many variables from the temperature in the studio, moisture level in the air, glaze firing kiln placement, thickness of the glaze when applied, …. I could go on and on. Its enough to make you crazy if you let it.

The first defense, and its limited, is to practice, practice and practice some more every aspect of the making process from raw clay through glaze firing. Students always give me a weird look when I tell them to save every single piece they make even if it is butt ugly, but better to practice glazing, etc on the ones you hate then the ones you love in my humble opinion.

The second defense, and this one is almost fool-proof, is to make so many pots that it doesn’t matter if a few come out wonky. I also tell my students, “there’s no crying in ceramics.”

Wait until they hear the discouraging news that all the practice may not matter and you still might end up with the perfect 70’s era style mug like I did in a recent firing. It makes me laugh this friendly reminder on my lack of control from the universe.

Check out more about this fun flashback mug and others in my Etsy shop!

Tire Tracks

I got interested in tire tracks a little over a year ago when I was creating patterns for a series of work inspired by the gears of pocket watches. While much of the work I created was an abstract view of gears, I had felt it important to incorporate some textures recognizable as mechanical components.

I found and bought this fabulous wagon wheel-sized tire that I use in a couple of ways: 1) to create tracks and 2) face down for a perfect gear reference. You can actually see both uses in the plate pictured. The tracks race across the plate through the middle creating an oval shape. The “gear” is glazed in a pale green in the upper right hand corner.SAM_1032

My favorite, by far, tire is actually a small swivel wheel that must have been used as a castor for a small metal cart or something. It is a great texture tool. First, the wheel itself has variation in its tread from larger to smaller circling it. Second, it is a castor of some type, so it was this great handle/swivel attached to it making for easy rolling across the clay. I don’t even know where I got it from and I’ve been using it for awhile as a background texture in my work.

This little tire is getting front and center coverage these days thanks in large part to all the planters I’m making. Turns out its a great planter texture. (Psst – click the planter picture for available planters!)

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Its so popular as a planter texture that I decided to try it the other day on mugs. You know what? It makes great mug texture too! I love how the swoops and tracks of this little tire turn out different each time. The variation between the positive and negative space when the tire is all by itself just really works with my forms.

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As I shared in my last blog post, I’ve even starting using my favorite tire tracks tool on my plates as well. Check out some examples and more here. Let me know what you think of all these tire tracks – just click the thought bubble to the right of this (or any) blog post’s title to comment!

Pinch Pot Mugs

I enjoy teaching for a lot of reasons. Its fun. It reminds me of the best part of my past life in human resources – developing others. Its challenging. I could go on, but I will share the one reason that constantly surprises me – I grow from it too.

It shouldn’t surprise me. After all, I’ve been teaching others in various capacities for years, certainly more than a decade, yet it still does every time a personal “AHA moment” hits me.

The most memorable from my last class session was when I shared the work of Didem Mert. Didem is a emerging artist in the ceramics world and its not surprising once you’ve seen her work. She uses a pinching method for her creations. They retain this really lovely hand built feel and her color block inspired glazing is stunning. You can see for yourself on her website here. I’m constantly on the hunt for new ways to teach the same concepts, in this instance, pinch pots. Didem’s work seemed perfect.

First, I had to figure out a reasonable way she could have created her great pinched mugs. Contrary to what my students probably think, I have no real idea how must of our inspiration artists create their work unless I’ve come across a tutorial they’ve published.

Personally, for me, that’s the best part – trying to figure out how to re-create a piece. Breaking it down into smaller, manageable components that I can translate into the construction method I’m teaching that day is fun and challenging for me. As is often the case, its in this stage that my “aha moments” tend to hit.

This time was no different. As I created several examples and variations for my students, I was reminded of how stuck I can get in the same construction methods, same forms when creating my own work.

Who’s to say that I shouldn’t be texturing pinched walls of clay instead of the rolled out slabs I usually use.

Who’s to say that I shouldn’t be creating a form first, texture second.

All good questions. I guess I’m to say. That’s the trouble with being in charge – you have to answer your own questions. I think, in this case, I’ll have to try it and see!

Check out my collection of limited edition pinch pot mugs inspired by Didem Mert. All of these fun mugs were also used for glazing demos and represent a variety of crazy combos! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Pinch Mugs Collage