Friday, August 11, 2017

Trying Majolica, Pottery Shed, + Random Things


I've been working on a new (for me) style of ceramics called majolica. You probably are familiar with this style of pottery - it is what the Italians do so well. I did some test tiles and I have a ways to go but it is a start. These are the tiles above before they are fired. I was trying to use commercial glazes so I didn't have to get into mixing my own glaze. I used Spectrum's White glaze with different glazes, underglazes and oxides for the color. 

Here are the tiles after they came out of the kiln. 



They didn't all turn out right - some of them are underfired and I am still testing. With this method of pottery, you have to make the piece and fire it in a kiln. After pieces are bisque fired, they are then covered in a white gloss glaze and the designs are painted on. The pieces are fired again and hopefully the designs sink into the white glaze and are beautiful colors. 

I think it will probably take a year for me to figure it out considering the amount of time I have to put into it. I am a real neophyte when it comes to glazing ceramics because I am mostly self taught. Primarily I purchase ready made glazes from suppliers like Amaco, Duncan and Mayco. I have been taking an evening pottery class for a couple years with local potter extraordinaire Lucy Fagella. She has been so helpful in answering questions as I continue to experiment and fail. I can't say I am going to jump in too much with the majolica as I want to make things that actually work out vs fail. A little at a time. And it is good to experiment and learn new things. 

I have been throwing lots of pots in my new "Pottery Shed". It feels so good to actually get something done. My "Pottery Shed" isn't insulated and because there is an issue with glazes and clay freezing, I'm trying to get as much made out there this summer. I will be decorating it this fall before my Holiday Sale. 


• The Boston Globe wrote about She Sheds here. I'm all set with mine! 


• My zucchinis are coming in like crazy. I'm going to try this recipe and this recipe and this savory zucchini bread recipe

• I bought a veggie spiralizer and I love it! My family loves everything I am making with it too. So far, my favorite veggies to spiralize are zucchini and butternut squash. I may try this recipe for Chilled Cucumber Noodles (via SwissMiss). 

• My student Darby turned me onto a new blog by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer. The woman is a true creative force and dynamo. Check it out here.  

I hope you are having a great summer for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere. It goes so fast - doesn't it? 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Fabulous Creative Retreat Part 2 - Ceramic Tile Painting

This year for my Creative Retreats I decided to change things up a bit and introduce some new types of art to the mix. I am lucky to have several students that have come back again and again to our farm. This does pose a problem in that I need to develop new classes so that they can learn new things. It's not really a problem for me because I like to do so many different creative pursuits and techniques and it is really hard for me to rein myself in. The challenge is in finding a project that can be completed in a day and one that is also easy enough for beginners to learn and complete in a day. 

Since my return to making pottery and painting ceramics a couple years ago, I have been wondering if I could include it in one of my summer retreats. In May when I announced the Retreats, I included a weekend which featured a day of Ceramic Tile Design. Amazingly so, that Retreat was the quickest to have students sign up. Maybe I am onto something?

Sunday came and as with any class I teach for the first time, I was sleepless the night before. Going over and over how I was going to approach teaching it in my head occupied most of the night. The students arrived at 9:30 and down we climbed into my studio. 

The class went amazingly well. There were all kinds of levels of abilities with painting. Some students hadn't touched a brush since grade school while others were pros. The students spent the day planning, practicing and painting their very own set of ceramic tiles. By the end of the day, everyone was done. Here's the complete set of what they made.


Here you can see everyone painting their beautiful tiles. 







Here are each student's sets of tiles. I really love how each goes together motif, color and designwise. 

Darby's tiles were inspired by illustrator Katie Daisy and Darby's love of gardening. 


Stephanie had a mid-century modern thing going on. 


Marji loves to knit but was game to try something new. I think these tiles are going to be fantastic when fired. I love the primitive look to her lines and shapes. 


Tamson is a tile collector and came armed with photos of her collection of tiles. Lovely simple motifs with a painterly vibe to them. 


Maureen had past experience as a decorative painter doing rosemaling and other techniques. Her hand was so light and delicate. Her set of tiles was inspired by her grandchildren. 


Carol is a decorative furniture painter and her skills translated gorgeously to the underglazes and brushes we were using. 


The tiles will now be fired in my kiln. I will then add a gloss glaze to all the tiles and then ship them to each student. I'll be sure to show you all how they look after the gloss glaze is added. 

Now to brainstorm on new subjects for 2018. I've got some ideas percolating. Do you have any suggestions of what you would like to learn from me? 

Judith Jones - An Icon

Yesterday I heard the sad news that Judith Jones has passed away at the age of 93 at her home in northern Vermont. My heart sank with sadness but also soared with admiration. What a rich and interesting life Judith lived and how incredible it must have been to introduce so many wonderful books and authors to the world. 

I met Judith a few times over the years when she traveled to our area for book signings and talks. The most memorable time I wrote about here back in 2012 when I met Judith at our neighbor David's home with her sweet dog Mabon. That day will always be one of my fondest memories of a woman who worked passionately and was still learning about new things like blogging way into her 80's. She was an icon and so deserving of that status. 


Judith Jones, Mabon, and me

You can listen to a couple interviews with Judith on the Burnt Toast podcast here and here. I must dig out my copy of The Tenth Muse, Judith's autobiography, and re-read it again. You can read the blog she wrote for a short period of time here

RIP Judith and thank you for all you did for the world. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fabulous Creative Retreat - Part One

This past weekend six brave souls arrived at the farm bright and early Saturday morning. The subject of the day was Fabric Printing in the morning. The concept for the afternoon was to embellish the printed fabric with Crewel Embroidery. I taught this same class last year over two days but this year, I decided to condense it into one day.

We start each class with a Meet and Greet on our screened in porch. This gives everyone a chance to tell their Fiber Story and it breaks the ice so we all get to know each other. It is fun to hear each person's Fiber Journey and it also helps me to know where each student is compared to the subject at hand. This weekend I had three new students and three returnees - Julia calls them three-peaters. I feel so fortunate that students like the classes so much that they will travel back to the farm. I also love to see how their skills have changed over the years and feel fortunate that I can be a part of their burgeoning artistic lives. 

After the short Meet and Greet, we headed down to my studio and dove in. Each student came armed with ideas that they might like to translate into a printed fabric. This group barely needed any help deciding upon ideas and motifs. Each student made their own printing stamps. They learned about the different paints I use too. 



We got right into stamping. 



Stephanie has been here before. She came with a motif in mind and we decided that it would make a great block design if it repeated around a central axis. 







Darby was inspired by the coneflowers in her garden. She also came armed with the book How to Be a Wildflower by illustrator Katie Daisy - you can check out her website and Instagram.  










Maureen decided upon paisley and heart motifs.





Ruth is fond of the traditional pomegranate motif. She printed on a natural flax color fabric and it is interesting how the fibers showed through the paint. 





Marji chose a very bold and graphic op-art design that I unfortunately don't have an overall view of. Here is a close-up of her stitching. 


Carol is a Decorative Artist who specializes in painted furniture. She came with a sketchbook full of ideas and printed a graphic design that she is going to heavily decorate with embroidery. 





It was an awesome day and I am so proud of the work that the students accomplished. Here they are - proud as punch. 

My friend Cynthia took the photo of all of us. She kindly did most of the cooking for us and the lunches were fantastic. Too bad I didn't get a photo of the spread. Lamb koftas, chicken, tabbouleh, gazpacho, green salad, homemade hummus, frittatas, homegrown squash and veggies, brownies and bar cookies. I so appreciate her help and support. 

Stop back for more tomorrow to see Day Two - Ceramic Tile Painting! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Late July, Garden + Clay Sunflowers


My cutting/veggie garden is coming along slowly. We finally got a good bit of rain and all the little sunflower seedlings perked and popped up. (I cannot water my garden because we do not have enough water in our well. For my potted plants, I use gray water from the kitchen dishes and that keeps them alive and growing.) We have eaten some zucchini and summer squash and soon to be feasting on some cukes. Next week I hope to finish mulching the garden with leftover bales of hay. In this photo, you can see some broken down cardboard boxes that I put under the hay to keep the weeds away. Never enough cardboard.


I don't have a lot of perennials because having any kind of garden with sheep is difficult. I do have this stunning fig leaf style Hollyhock that is putting on a spectacular show. Margaret Roach had a great article on hollyhocks on her blog/podcast recently. I want to grow some other colors. It sounds like mid-summer is the perfect time to start seeds for bloom next year. Here is the link


Back in May I started fooling around with making plaster molds from clay sculptures of sunflowers. You can see that post here. I learned something new doing them - making a plaster mold from wet clay sculpture - which was rewarding. I bisque fired a few of the experiments and this week I finally got around to experimenting with the glaze step of the project. I had in my mind how I wanted them to look but wasn't sure how to get the look with the glazes I have.


I am stumbling around with the glazing on my pottery. It is all new to me - mixing glazes and wondering how they will fire. I've had some failure but because it is new to me it is intriguing. I can't spend too much time on it because I need to make pottery to sell in the fall for the holiday season. I spend endless amounts of time reading websites and trying to figure things out myself. Definitely not the best use of my time. I guess the wonder and the curiosity of it all is good for me and my mind instead of the same old same old. 


The last thing I should be doing is blogging today as I have 6 students coming for a retreat this weekend but I wanted to pop in and connect with you all out there as this blog has a bit neglected. Summer rolls on. Julia had a birthday and we've got some places to go before it is over. It sure is flying by. 

Hope you all in the northern hemisphere are enjoying summer. Have a great weekend everyone. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fabric Printing + Lampshade Creative Retreat Wrap-Up

I have finally recovered from my big week last week and weekend. Between the cleaning of the house and studio, the New England Weaver's Seminar tour here at the farmhouse on Thursday (I didn't realize I had chairs for 22 people) and the Creative Retreat this past weekend, I had to rest up on Monday (and catch up on all the things I missed while I was in prep mode). 

We are in the middle of a heatwave here with high humidity and temps in the 90s and upper 80s. It really zaps any energy I have by noon. Yesterday, Julia and I were at the Farmers Market in Northampton on the pavement behind Thornes Marketplace. I was toast by the end of that day! This morning I continued working on my garden. All the sunflowers are in and I'm hoping the critters don't chomp on them as they emerge as little seedlings. 


I took some photos of the weekend. It is really hard to remember to do that between all the teaching and the chatter. It was a great group on Saturday. In the morning we did Fabric Stamping. Here are some of the process photos and projects the students made. 











Here are a few of the stamps and linoleum carved printing blocks. 


On Sunday, Linda got lucky and had a private class all day lampshade painting because of a no-show. We had a great time chatting and I think she got a lot out of the class. Here is her lampshade in progress. 




Here is the lampshade with the addition of the black lines.



She didn't quite finish it but she did finish when she got home and shared a photo of it in place. I love to see students projects in use. 


The next Creative Retreat is in two weekends - July 29/30. More Fabric Printing, Embroidery, and a day of Tile painting. There are still a couple of spaces left. This year I'm offering both One and Two Day Classes. Check it out here