Friday, June 25, 2010

To New Homes...

cute baby animals - Overwhelming Squee Attack!
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Here's a lethal dose of cuteness -- just cuz I can.

The first batch of Elsie & Oliver sets are winging their way to their new homes, and it feels good. After being a year late in production because of all my struggles with these two, to have the first batch finally hit the post office is like the period at the end of a very long sentence. These first nineteen sets sold out in essentially two minutes, something that has left me flattered and stunned. And to my great relief, this cart system didn't oversell -- it stopped promptly at nineteen. PHEW! I was holding my breath!

Barry is stopping by today to drop off another twelve sets, so I hope to have the next batch sale sometime next week. I'm also going to have single-sets (two mares or two foals) as well as batches of singles, but since the mare/foal set was so popular in the poll, I want to get more of those out here in these first rounds. So I'll be packing those up, along with 200 Melly Tiles this weekend. Boy, my postman is going to need a bigger truck! PHEW x 2.

And speaking of the tiles, they came out great! This low-fire terra cotta is WYSIWYG -- no warpage or weirdness. PHEW x 3. I was so worried about the loss percentage!

But speaking of weirdness...the Fates are telling me that V.2 isn't in the cards right now. I forgot to put her in the freezer while I was sculpting her head, and well -- let's just say I have to dremel it off again...for the fifth time. She's just not happenin' right now. So...I'm going to move onto the mini Stock horse and the Friesian stallion, and wait for V.2 to stop being a pill. Sometimes pieces are like that. It's inexplicable. One of the most valuable lessons Elsie taught me was to go with the flow, so I'll move onto the next piece and V.2 will come alive in her own good time.

And speaking of a good time...I've enrolled in Level 1 and Level 2 Precious Metal Clay (PMC) classes in September, in Lacey, Washington! I am so excited about this material. It will allow me to create high quality jewelry and accessories with my work, opening up whole new opportunities for the studio. I'm also considering taking a class in glass clay, and fused glass next year, as well, in order to accent my PMC sculpture work. Art work you can wear! Hot dog!

In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration." ~ Ansel Adams


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Monolith

Like the mysterious slab from 2001, a white wall of boxes awaits its destiny in my garage. Nineteen happy Haffie sets will embark to their new homes very soon! Stay tuned on my mailing list for the announcement post.

Barry tells me he has more sets ready to go, so another batch of sets will be available very soon after this one, too! Exciting times!

"I succeeded in simply attending at the birth of all my works." ~ Max Ernst


Empty Nest Syndrome

Sniff. The little Mourning Dove babies have grown up and flown away, the morning of the 22nd. It was over far too soon, but it was so fun while it lasted!


"Our whole life is but a greater and longer childhood." ~ Benjamin Franklin


Cookin' Cotta

This is just the top shelf -- there are four more below this one, packed with tiles!

I just turned on my big kiln, Big Al! He's firing the 300 Melly Tiles all in one go -- so keep your fingers crossed!

The tiles are stacked in piles of three, in order to get them all in there. You can stack greenware during the bisque fire since greenware won't stick to itself (unless it's prepared a certain way). You can't do this with a glaze fire because the glaze (glass) melts and fuses. This means Big Al will have another full load when I glaze all 100ish of the tiles I'm assigned, since the glaze fire can't have the tiles touching anything inside the kiln.
..which is a big space eater. I'm considering getting those tile racks or stacking tile holders in order to maximize space during a glaze fire.

Anyway, what struck me about this clay is the variation in color and feel -- look how dark some of those tiles are! Those dark ones also are a bit heavier. So we'll see what happens...
oh Fates be kind!

"It's good to feel the rush of something nice coming on." ~ Mary Smart


Monday, June 21, 2010

Dancing for Dollars

This is indeed a very special Tango created for a very special cause.

He was sculpted by myself, molded and cast in fine bone china in England by Mark Farmer, then shipped to California to be glazed by Joan Berkwitz. He's danced around the globe!

What's so special about this piece? Well...
  • He is the last Marcher Ware Tango.
  • He is a one-of-a-kind color! All other Marcher Ware Tangos were glazed in sets of three...except this one!
  • Technically, he shouldn't even have survived his fire. Good gravy!
  • Best of all -- he's a 100% benefit for Melly and Herm! Wooot!

His auction on Auction Barn ends today -- in five hours! And Shallon and Brian, the Auction Barn team, have generously waived all fees for this auction! Thank you! Don't miss an incredibly rare opportunity!

"Chance happens to all, but to turn chance to account is the gift of few." ~ Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

To all you Dad's out there -- Happy Father's Day! This one in particular has a new meaning for me, thanks to the Mourning Dove pair who have nested in our wreath. I believe that's Dad sitting on his brood (above).

The two chicks are growing at an alarming rate, and Hubby reported that they had started to test their wings just this morning! I put some seat cushions beneath the nest, just in case one of them falls so they won't hit the patio cement.

They are so cute, I want to pull my hair out!

There's Mom and Dad on our roof, keeping a close vigil on their chicks. We are constantly watched by beady eyes -- which I happen to find appealing. I like things with beady eyes.

As to the Melly tiles, Hubby helped me yesterday to clean all 300 of them (plus some more!) and they're all loaded into Big Al, ready for firing. I had planned to fire them today, but I noticed that many were still too damp. I think because I had dried them on the drywall boards flipped over onto the cardboard side, in order to keep the drywall side clean for my white stoneware (terra cotta contains minerals that stain other clays, so you have to keep everything separate). And I suspect the cardboard wasn't as effective as the plaster drywall. So I'm letting them sit in Big Al until Tuesday, just in case.

Also in this fire are two terra cotta tiles I intend to fancy up for the Breakables ceramic figurine show. There are two of them, a Champion and Reserve Champion, and if the fire goes well, they will feature two of the new designs, and decorated with fancy bent wire and beads! Real one-of-a-kinds -- I wanted something really fun and special for a really special show! Thank you Maggie Barkovitz for hosting this terrific event! to bug Dad and eat way more ice cream cake than should be allowed....

"It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn't." ~ Barbara Kingsolver


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Births A-Plenty

This is what 500 lbs of clay looks like in the trunk of a Mazda.

Big Al is scheduled to fire all 300 "Melly Tiles" on Sunday and hatch them out on Monday. Mom is going to help me pack them up and ship them off to all the anxiously waiting glazers, and then it's a free-for-all from there!

I'm so excited to see what all these creative minds do with them -- it'll be like The Mane Event!

The support for Melly and Herm has been inspiring and uplifting to me in ways I never expected. Gosh -- it just feels
so good to know I'm part of a community effort to make a positive difference in their lives! Our society has become so fractured and anonymous nowadays, and here we can tap into our primeval need to be part of something good and personal. Almost tribal. I like it.

Along those lines, the Mourning Dove pair hatched their babies! The pink arrow is pointing to one of them (below). I didn't see them at first because they look just like the nest and
they do not move. They're as still as stones. But Ham's sharp eye spotted the bitty beady eyes of one baby and then it all became wonderfully obvious.

Here's a close-up with my zoom lens. You can see a wee beady eye on the right, by the stick, with the head, breast and wing. They're about the size of tennis balls. They're so cute I could scream!

And of course -- our platy fish are having babies again! I spotted a tiny fry in the bottom rocks today. Our fancy male guppies fall madly in love with the female platys and I think it all goes downhill from there.

Plus, I'm getting close to releasing the first batch of Haffie sets, and I'm stoked to see how painters "dress" them in pigment! Speaking of which, I started painting a delightful Laf'n Bear Smittyn...

Here's a sneak peek of little Miss Smittyn! I'm not sure if my reference photo is of a silver or liver chestnut, but I guess I'll worry about that later. This is just a preliminary layer.

I needed something to do that I could walk away from when it came time to ship off the Melly tiles, so painting was it. The problem is that once I start sculpting, I fixate and there's only one short-term consequence to that: Procrastination with shipping those tiles. Not good. Now I really should be finishing the glazing on that Taboo, but well...this little lady was calling to me louder. Besides, I want all that terra cotta outta the ceramic studio before I touch white bisque!

But the big question now is: How long will it be 'till I finish both of them? Argh. I have piles of unfinished projects scattered all over. Dag gum. I need to work on generating the discipline to finish what I start! The inspiration of an idea demands the birth of the finished piece!

"There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start." ~ Charles Baudelaire


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The More the Merrier!

Great news! Lynn Fraley, Kristina Lucas Francis and Kylee Demers have joined The Terra Cotta Tile Project! MAZAL TOV!

So here's a recap of all the glazing artists participating in this exciting project: Joanie Berkwitz, Kate Cabot, Donna Chaney, Jenn Danza, Kylee Deemers, Cheryl Farrens, Lynn Fraley, Kristina Lucas Francis, Karen Gerhardt, Lesli Kathman, Jen Kroll, Elaine Lindelef, Barb Ness, Margaret Olson, Marge Para, Addi Velasquez and, of course, moi-self.

Now dry my little tiles -- dry!

"Happiness is not so much in having or sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." ~ Norman MacEwan


Monday, June 14, 2010

More Glazers on Board!

My goodness -- the support for Melly and Herm has been like a blessed bursting supernova! The logistical coordinators fielded over 500 emails yesterday alone! Thank you everyone for your help! The support has been so overwhelming that a new website is coming to accommodate! Woooot! Stay tuned!

And I'm happy to announce that Kate Cabot and Donna Chaney are now on board to glaze the special "Melly Tiles!" How cool is that? Thank you ladies so very much!

Read more about this tile project, and the ongoing fund-raising efforts on Lesli's two new blog posts here and here. Also Joanie's new post here. And Cheryl Farrens' blog post here.

Only love can be divided endlessly and still not diminish."
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh


Saturday, June 12, 2010

The B-52s and Baby Powder

My worker bee hive since yesterday. I've been listening to the entire collection of The B-52s on my iPod dock -- really really loud. I learned it takes 3.5 loops of their entire anthology to roll, cut and stamp 300 tiles. And since I use baby powder as a stamp release, I reek of the stuff. Happy and reeking.

Every once and awhile, the Universe gives us the opportunity to make a positive difference in the life of a dear friend in dire need. When myself and others in our art community were alerted to the plight of Melissa Gaulding and her husband, Herman, we were compelled to act. They are dear people -- the kind you immediately adore, and feel you've known all your life even though you met them only two minutes ago. Thoughtful, intelligent, fun, witty, supportive and talented, they charm you instantly.

So what began as Heather Malone-Bogle's plaintive question of what could be done for them has now bloomed into a joyous, enthusiastic snowball of generosity from every corner of the industry. It's times like this that remind us what's important and what unites us, and so this effort has been a true celebration not only of Melly and Herman, but of what it means to be fortunate enough to have them as friends.

While many artists and collectors are donating exquisite pieces for the cause, I considered what I could do. So many of these pieces are expected to go for high-ticket amounts, and I pondered what could allow lots of folks to participate in this giving party, too...and it popped into my head: The stamped tiles! Of course!

So I set myself on a plan, now formally termed The Terracotta Tile Project! Fellow mudhen Marge Para suggested using terracotta clay to make them really distinctive, which was a stroke of genius. Thanks Marge! And since Melly's logo is a flying heart, I decided to create a little heart stamp to make an additional imprint into the clay, making these stamps doubly unique.

A bit of epoxy clay shaped into a heart stamp, wrapped in foil and rapidly cured in the oven allowed me to get to work immediately. While Melissa's logo has a winged heart, I thought it fitting the horse in the tile would "fly" the heart instead, neatly tucked in his chest. Lots of meaning fit for the occasion.

So since yesterday afternoon, I've been a Sarahsaurus Rex possessed, cranking out three hundred beautiful 3" terracotta tiles, which are now happily drying. The eight day countdown begins now! Once they're bisque fired, a slew of incredible glazing artists have volunteered to glaze many of them, and then sell them on Melly's behalf. Here's a list of the current glazers hungry to help: Karen Gerhardt, Barb Ness, Jen Kroll, Joan Berkwitz, Adalee Velasquez, Lesli Kathman, Cheryl Farrens, Marge Para, Jenn Danza, Elaine Lindelef, Margaret Olson, and of course myself. Stay tuned on their blogs or lists for updates regarding their tiles, and other fund-raising contributions. And stay tuned here for updates on new glazers jumping into the gleeful glazing fray!

Even Hubby got in on the action!

Here's a sneak peek at this special tile! The white bits are the baby powder, which will fire off.

Each participating artist gets to glaze and decorate their allotted tiles however they wish, making each of these tiles super special three times over! And not only that! Everyone who buys ones of these tiles is entered into a drawing for two more special items! HAZZAH! To learn more about The Terracotta Tile Project, and to stay updated on all fund-raising activities, bookmark the Flying Heart Fundraiser page. Things are developing very quickly, so revisit it often to keep up with the breaking news! Also, the selling process for these puppies is still being formulated, and this project will have its own page soon, so hang tight for more as it blossoms!

To learn more about the cause, visit Joan's blog post, Karen Gerhardt's blog post, and Lesli Kathman's blog posts here and here.

"All you need is love." ~ The Beatles


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Six of One, Haffie Dozen of Another!

March of the Haffies

To my great delight, Barry of Bear Cast LLC dropped off the first batch o' Haffies this afternoon. So nineteen sets will be sold soon, but I don't know when yet specifically. One set is being retained for cleaning, to be catapulted to Blackberry Lane Pottery for transformation into clinky goodness. Woot! And in theory, this set will be the fodder for Mayhem 2010! But if you need resin casting done, I highly recommend Bear Cast LLC: Top quality castings, with speedy, professional service. You won't be disappointed -- I promise.

And I was additionally thrilled to learn that Barry can do cold-cast bronze! So I'm going to have him work his magic on Reflective and Jax again, but in that beauteous stuff, which will open up whole new markets for them! We also discussed some options for my sproinging Arabian mare I'm working on in order to preserve the illusion of being airborne.

I'm also cold-painting a Laf'nBear Smittyn into some sort of sooty tastiness, and hope to have her done by Friday or Saturday, and up on Auction Barn next week. She is so fun to paint! I still have to finish glazing that Taboo, too. I love it when there's an overabundance of fun stuff to cram into each hour -- keeps me revved up!

The yin yang of Haffidom

I'm also happy to report that the sponge technique for equalizing the glaze on the tiles worked like a charm! I bought a few kinds to experiment with, but this definitely is the ticket. HIKEEBAH!

The Summer issue of The Boat is shaping up nicely, and I was given stewardship of the new RESS blog, which has been really fun to develop. And if you notice at the bottom of this blog, and the RESS blog, there are nifty Amazon widgets that link you directly to recommended resources. This new feature hopefully can be useful to you at some point in your own art career.

To cap off a perfect day, I saw three baby squirrels in my back yard! YES. I leave lots of food out for them so they gets bigs n' blobby, and it'll be so fun to watch these wee ones cavort about! And that Mourning Dove pair should be hatching their eggs any day now!

Exciting times!

"If art takes up much of the artist's time, then it makes sense that she/he be 'lost' in the euphoria of creating. Isn't that one of our ultimate purposes in life?" ~ Harley Brown


Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Lucky Break

funny pictures of cats with captions

Ceramics isn't for wimps. You gotta have a certain moxie to handle the unexpected whims of this capricious media. And boy...did Big Al open up a big can of slap-you-in-the-face-with-whim this last fire! Feast yer orbs on this:

ook at that big fat crack in my kiln shelf. Cone 5 got medieval on my tiles! I am flabbergasted that the shelf didn't collapse down completely, but remained somewhat semi-detached by its last little tendrils. Only that upper corner teetered down to the shelf below it. And those shelves are $65 each. Crud.

I pull up the two broken parts to find the aftermath on the shelf beneath. Broken shelf bits everywhere, and six otherwise beautiful tiles ruined. The broken shelf bits simply fused into the molten glaze. One tile, in particular, went out with flair, actually melting onto that one corner of the broken shelf (red arrow).

Now I will say this: I did notice a tiny crack in the shelf beforehand and, tempting fate, decided to ignore it. I can be silly that way. So let's just say I won't be making that mistake ever again. I shudder to think of what might have happened if this was a Mayhem fire!

So that was a bit of excitement in the midst of this latest batch of tiles. Anyway, this is the last batch of this design, since a new version has been made to replace it. I also got new crackle glazes, and I can't wait to see how they come out. But I had pondered why the glaze still was so uneven, even with dipping...

While the glaze itself is pretty, it's uneven! I can't sell this!

Why was I having this problem? And then I reflected on how I dipped...after pulling the tile out of the glaze, I'd roll it to one corner and shake off the excess. Then sit it, face up, on a table to dry. Why -- of course! That thicker area of glaze is where the glazed ran into when the tile was tipped! DUR SARAH. You can imagine how stupid I felt, after that shelf incident and now this. Live and learn -- eventually.

So I got to thinking: How could I still dip, but remove the excess in a more even way? Why dab, of course! Dip n' dab! So I got a towel, dampened it, and wrapped it around a large tile to keep it flat. I did my dipping, but rather than tipping the tiled, I immediately dabbed it -- face down -- onto the towel. That worked pretty good. Not great though. Too much texture, and I didn't know how that would translate into the glaze. But I was on the right track. I knew I needed a sponge. A big damp sponge. That was my ticket -- but we didn't have one. Or so I thought! Hubby came home, and immediately dug one out from some secret Harley place in the garage and voila! It worked like a charm!

The glazing tray (on the right), with the damp sponge (on the left). Below the sponge is the damp towel.

Suffice to say I'll be getting an array of big sponges to experiment. I'm so happy with how it worked, and I'm really hoping it's my solution. The Laguna high fire crackle glazes are so beautiful, and a more even application would allow me to use them in production, which is my goal. I need a measure of predictability for the regular line. In particular, I want to put Laguna Desert Skye into production, because it's my favorite, but that glaze is so variable. My fingers are crossed that Sir Sponge will grant my wish. Now one thing I did notice from this first batch: Laguna Ocean Teal applies really evenly, even with the tilt n' shake method. Every one of them came out perfect. Which suits me fine -- it's one of my favorites! So I think I can put that one into production. In this fire I also experimented with some mixes, so we'll see how those come out, too.

Anyway, here's hoping that Big Al isn't such a prankster this fire!

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." ~ Carl Sagan

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