Friday, June 28, 2019

Fruits of my Labors

Here's a sneak peek of the small vases that just came out of the gloss firing in my kiln. I will be debuting them on Saturday at the Amherst Farmers Market in our Leyden Glen Lamb booth. The hours are 8 to 1:30. I'll try to take some photos of the set-up so you can see how the vases are displayed.  

I ordered a small wooden display rack from this shop on Etsy. It looks like mini stairs and was designed for selling homemade soaps which are a brisk mover at many farmers markets. I made sure that all my vases would fit on the stairs. It is very well made and was ready for paint. I painted it yesterday and it is all set to go tomorrow. 

Here's a close-up of some of the vases. This is all a grand experiment. At this point I don't plan to put any of them on-line but we shall see. I've got to concentrate getting more work done for the Garlic and Arts Festival at the end of September. 

Have a great weekend everyone and maybe I will see some of you tomorrow. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Second Firing + The Potters Cast

My latest batch of ceramics went through its first firing cycle which is called bisque. My kiln fires for about 8 hours and then cools down for a couple days. I unload it all onto my studio table. This latest firing has 30 small vases that I plan to take to the farmers market and sell at our Leyden Glen Farm booth. Cut flowers are very popular at our market with about 5 different stands featuring all kinds of beautiful blooms. I thought it would be perfect to have small vases to complement the flowers others are selling. I hope to debut them this coming weekend. 

After the bisque firing, the next step is to coat each piece in a clear glaze. I use a shiny clear glaze from Amaco called LG-10. I paint it onto all sides of each piece so that the entire piece becomes covered in gloss. 

The clay I use is called earthenware and it is low-fire (different from porcelain and stoneware which needs a higher temperature to mature). I love this clay because it is smooth and easy to work (sometimes called plastic). It has no grog (little bits that are added to stoneware which I find annoying when throwing). Because it is low fire, the kiln doesn't have to get as hot so it is less expensive to fire and fires quicker. The underglaze colors fire very bright and vivid. 

Many earthenware pieces "sweat". You probably have some vases that leave rings on your wooden furniture - that means they are sweating. To combat the pots sweating and ruining furniture which leave a water ring, I cover the bottoms in glaze. It adds a step to glazing but I think it is worth it. When loading the kiln, I raise each piece on something called stilts that are pieces of high fire clay with needles sticking out of them. The little needles keep the pot from fusing to the stilt and only leave a little mark that I sand off before selling them. 

Because I am not a "trained potter" (i.e. I didn't go to college for this), I have had to learn a lot of this myself. Before the internet, it was pretty impossible to figure things out but now there are thousands of pottery videos that I can watch. There is also a growing ceramics community on Instagram. It seems to be a friendly and supportive community and although I don't add much - there are many potters I follow and watch what they are making. Unlike the knitting/crochet/Ravelry community, there does not seem to be too much nastiness nor politics mixed in. Let's hope it stays that way.  

Handmade ceramics seem to be having their "moment". There are so many people who want to learn how to make pottery or have started collecting it. There are amazing ceramic artists out there. It is fun to be a part of this growing community. I listen to a great podcast called "The Potters Cast." You might want to add it to your podcast feed. They are interesting interviews and I always learn something. Here is the link to find The Potters Cast. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Updates - My Farmer and Pottery

Farmer Mark had his second hip surgery last week and he is resting and recovering. He had a different procedure from the last hip replacement which is supposed to have a quicker recovery - it is called anterior as opposed to posterior. He went back to the doctor this week for a check-in and they are very happy. He is sitting and moving around with a walker. He has been on some nice easy short walks. You can only imagine the frustration he is feeling not being able to take care of his animals. Last year he discovered farming videos on YouTube and they are keeping him somewhat entertained. 

This is one of his favorite YouTube channels called FLANK. It is about British Farming and features a Mum - Sarah - being filmed by her son Rufus who comes back to the farm he grew up on. The mum is quite hilarious and I find it entertaining too. Check out their first introductory video here

I'm doing my best juggling the house, the family, the healing farmer, the garden and the sheep. Luckily most of the sheep are out on pasture grazing and as long as the grass holds out and they stay in, they aren't much trouble. I say that - but last week I spent an hour and half along with some neighbors getting 12 sheep back in their fencing. One ewe got her head stuck in the electronet and the rest escaped. She is fine and they all went back in eventually.  

I have been accepted into the North Quabbin Garlic And Arts Festival in Orange. MA which happens September 28 and 29th. I will be selling products of my own design - tea towels, books and whatever pottery I can get made. I have heard that it is a great event so I am super excited for it. Evidently people travel from far away to attend. I had better get busy making so that I have enough product to make a good display. 

I found this bookcase on the side of the road a couple weeks ago. It was black and looked like it had been in someone's garage or basement. I am always on the lookout for shelves for books or supplies or my pottery studio. I took it home - luckily it fit in my SUV - and painted it in this pretty green color. I've been filling it with my pottery that is waiting to be fired. 

Here are some other pieces that are waiting to be bisque fired. My kiln is a Skutt 1027 and it takes me a while to fill it. I think I have almost enough ware to fire so I will do it while The Farmer is recovering from surgery. 

Hope all is well with all of you as we head into the beginning of official summer. 

Friday, June 21, 2019

Mom's Couch and New Surface Designs

My Mom has been repairing her screened in porch and wanted to update the cushions on her wicker furniture. She asked me if I would re-color one of my designs more to her taste. I did. I did 4 versions for her. 

She chose the gold background and I ordered it for her. My sister Nancy - who is a very talented seamstress - sewed the cotton/linen canvas into cushions for her. Here is how it looks. 

The Birds, Flowers, and Bugs surface design is available to anyone over on my Spoonflower shop. The design can be printed on over 25 different fabrics. Spoonflower also has changed their website some and you may find it easier to navigate. I just noticed that when I go to a listing, besides the fabric sample, they also show each surface design on some of the Roostery products that they produce. Here are some screenshots of a blanket, pillow and duvet cover. 

It is such a cool concept that my designs can be digitally printed and made into products. Unfortunately, it is really hard for someone to find me on Spoonflower unless they have a direct link to my "Spoonflower Shop". There are so many designs and designers, I am just a little blip in the world. C'est la vie. 

I think it is great that Spoonflower has started "Roostery" - their finished product division. That way, folks who don't sew or don't have the time to sew can still purchase independent surface designer's work on pre-made textile products. Find my designs on Roostery here

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

June Update From Our Farm

Hi there blogging friends. How are you all doing? Things are busy here at the farm. Most of the sheep have moved from the barns out to pastures. There are still some lambs being born and because the ewes are lambing on pasture, the little lambs are wild as heck. So far so good on that front.

Spring has sprung. The apple orchard bloomed. We are at least a week behind the normal growth cycle because this spring it has been so rainy and wet and cold. Everything is late to get going. 

My garden was just tilled and over the past couple days I got half of it in with plant starts from Walker Farm in Dummerston, VT. 

I have ordered my sunflower seeds and they should be here in a week or so. I will stagger the planting over a few weeks. I find that here I can plant as late as the middle of July and still have sunflowers. It all depends on the weather but I like my sunflowers to start blooming in September and end in October. I get my seeds from Johnny's and Sunflower Selections. I always order new seeds because I haven't had luck with germination with planting year old seeds. 

Here are some other photos of what it looks like here at our farm. I haven't been using my big camera nearly as much as I have done in the past. It's too bad because it really does take good photos. Guess not enough time to lug it around and then download photos to the computer, tweak them and upload them here. 

This little garden is just outside my studio. I am really excited that tiny little hollyhock seedlings made it through the winter and it looks like I am going to have gorgeous hollyhocks just outside my window. I have no idea what color they will be. Can't wait to see. 

This is one of my favorite combinations - lambs ears and lady's mantle. I have grown it together in every garden I have ever tended. It is looking lovely today. 

Tomorrow The Farmer goes in for his second hip replacement surgery. Fingers crossed the recovery goes better than last year's trials and tribulations. Please keep us in your thoughts. 
So that is what is going on here. What is new with you? Do you have summer plans that you are looking forward to? I am going to miss having students come to the house for the retreats that I have hosted for the past ten years but I will be busy making lots of things, helping with the sheep, and hoping The Farmer's healing process moves along better than last year. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Book Review - Henry Wilson's Floral Patterns Of India

This past January when we were starved for color here in western Massachusetts, I discovered the book Floral Patterns Of India via the Quintessence blog. I am not sure how I missed this one as it was published in 2016. It was written and photographed by the very talented Henry Wilson. The book is beautifully presented and was published by Thames and Hudson. It has a silky fabric bright blue colored spine. The paper is very thick and has a somewhat matte but not too matte finish. It is 272 pages long - full of incredible photographs, patterns and color. There is so much inspiration in here that it was hard to pick just a few pages to photograph. 

Floral Patterns of India is jam packed with colorful photos from India. There are photos of places, people, buildings, interiors, and fabrics. Besides the beautiful photos, there are many words to read - a plus for someone who likes to read - besides look at photos. Read books? Do people do that anymore? Sure people read on their screens but do they crack open a book or do they just scroll, scroll, scroll. I do - although not as much as I should. Floral Patterns of India is split into 6 Chapters: Introduction, Repeat Patterns, Borders and Bands, Floral Panels, Ornamental Scenes, and The Drawing Process. 

Look at these crazy goats! 

Throughout the book, there are photos of interiors and exteriors. Here are a few of my favorites. 

Henry Wilson was definitely inspired by the colors, shapes, and patterns of India. So much so that he took the motifs from many of the interiors and then made one color illustrations which are shown opposite the interior it was featured in. For artists, needleworkers, knitters, surface designers, these illustrations are great jumping off points for their own work. At the very back of the book, Henry explains his process and reason for the drawings that accompany many of the photos. They were all done completely by hand without the use of a computer. He cites a tracing paper, ruler, pens, protractor, compass and erasers as his tools. This really blows my mind because they all look to be so accurate as to have been done with the use of a computer. Amazing. Henry cites a book called Jeypore Portfolio of Architectural Details from 1890 as his inspiration - besides all the handmade beauty that he photographed in India. 

Here is the author Henry Wilson. I found this photo on the Thames and Hudson website. Behind him is his wallpaper line called Sariskar that he designed for Osborne and Little. I love these wallpapers.  

Henry Wilson was an incredibly talented photographer who fell in love with India. He wrote seven books on India including Floral Patterns of India which I am sharing here. Unfortunately Henry died in May of 2017 when hit by a car while he was riding his bicycle  in London where he lived. You can see photos of Henry's incredible house here. Check out all there is to learn on his website here. Such an incredible legacy he left but it is so sad he was taken from the world so early. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Garden Excursion to Garden Vision Epimediums

Epimediums - what a mouthful, isn't it? I want to share with you all a new garden plant - at least to me. Epimediums are shade loving plants that are native to China and Japan. I was introduced to them by my friend Kay. The other day we went on an adventure to Garden Vision Epimediums in Phillipston, Massachusetts - about an hour from where we live. 

My friend Kay is an amazing gardener. She has gardened all her life and is a plant nerd who knows all the latin names of plants. She is way beyond me - but I always learn something when she talks plants - which is good for me. She invited me to go to Garden Vision Epimediums after she heard the owner - Karen Perkins - on Margaret Roach's podcast A Way to Garden. You can listen here. BTW, Margaret Roach's book A Way to Garden is celebrating its 21st anniversary and has been updated and re-published on April 30th. 

The nursery is run solely by Karen. She has Open Days for 3 weeks in the spring. If you are local - you can still catch this year's Open Days until May 19th. Hours are 10-4. Please be warned - the nursery is located in very rural Massachusetts and there are no bathroom facilities

Karen propagates over 170 different epimediums and also sells them through mail-order. She travels a lot up and down the East Coast so if you can't get to Phillipston, you might be able to see her at a plant sale or lecture near you. Here is the schedule.

I was a total neophyte to this genus of plants but the more I looked, the more I was taken with the varieties. There are small ones, big ones, ones with multi-colored leaves. They come in many different leaf colors and blossom colors. They blossom in the spring and have the most delicate complex blossom. All of Karen's varieties were collected overseas and brought back to the US to be propogated.

Karen is doing important work and takes it very seriously. She works by herself, publishes a catalog, ships the plants all over the USA, cares for the nursery, does lectures and on and on. It was so nice to meet her and see her place.

I purchased a couple different varieties of epimediums and will put them in my shade garden next to hostas as Karen suggested. I hope I don't lose them to some critter of mine. It isn't easy gardening with 2 giant dogs, 1 medium dog and lots of cats and sheep but I am going to give them a try. Thanks to Kay for taking me on a plant adventure. 

Have a great day everyone. 

Fruits of my Labors

Here's a sneak peek of the small vases that just came out of the gloss firing in my kiln. I will be debuting them on Saturday at the Amh...