Monthly Archives: January 2011

Spring 2011 Calendar of Events: Southwest/Northwest Can-Am

Note: This information was gleaned from the Ceramics Daily calendar. Please send me your listing if your event is not included; post the information in the comments section below…who, what, when, where, plus contact e-mail and website. Thank you.

Art Festivals

Oregon, Portland
April 29 to May 1
29th Annual Ceramic Showcase
Oregon Potters Association
Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


(Squeezing an early summer one in…. Don’t worry, it’ll still feel like spring in Montana in June!)

Montana, Helena
June 23 to June 25
2011: From the Center to the Edge Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
2915 Country Club Ave.
406-443-3502 |


British Columbia, Parksville
April 21 to April 22
“2 Day Workshop,” with Tony Clennell.
Arrowsmith Potters Guild
600 Alberni Hwy.
250-954-1872 |

British Columbia, Parksville
April 23
“Masters V Clay Symposium,” with Tony Clennell, Miera Matheson, Debra Sloan, Martha James, and Gordon James.
Arrowsmith Potters Guild
132 Jensen Ave. W.
250-954-1872 |

Solo Exhibitions

Montana, Missoula
March 4 to March 27
“Temenos,” works by Lauren Sandler
The Clay Studio of Missoula Gallery
1106 Hawthorne St., Unit A

Washington, Bellingham
April 1 to April 30
“Blue Water Pottery,” works by Jeremy Noet
Good Earth Pottery
1000 Harris Ave.

Group Exhibitions

Montana, Helena
January 29 to April 2
“Beyond the Brickyard: Third Annual Juried Exhibition”
Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
2915 Country Club Ave.

Oregon, Salem
February 1 to February 26
“Plate it Up: 100 Artists Show”
Mary Lou Zeek Gallery
335 State St.

Washington, Bellingham
February 1 to February 28
“Tea for Two: Teapot Show”
Good Earth Pottery
1000 Harris Ave.

Washington, Bellingham
March 1 to March 31
“Bowls for Benefit for Bellingham Food Bank,” works by Deb Martin and Linda Stone
Good Earth Pottery
1000 Harris Ave.

Multimedia Exhibitions

Washington, Camano Island
March 5 to April 10
“Northwest Designer Craftsmen Invitational Show”
Matzke Fine Art and Design
2345 Blanche Way

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Truly Beautiful Craftsman Artisan Tiles

Terra Firma, Ltd

Handmade Stoneware Tiles made by a family owned business. Tiles can be found in showrooms in Canada and the U.S.

Lewellen Studio

Handmade tiles designed and created by Norm Lewellen, of Bellingham, Washington. Cone 5 porcelain. Wholesale only.

Motawi Tileworks

My favorite Arts and Crafts tiles, made in Michigan. Low relief tiles, glaze colors separated by a clay ridge.

Roycroft Pottery

Among the oldest and most famous of today’s featured tile works. Made in East Aurora, New York, the pottery was established in 1895.

Dard Hunter Studios

The famed Dard Hunter Rose. Takes my breath away! Hunter began his career at Roycroft in 1905 and had a large NY studio.

Arts & Crafts Tiles

Charles Rennie MackIntosh‘s Glasgow School designs executed by Motawi and Dard Hunter Studio.

RTK Studios

Well-known and well-connected  California tile studio, begun in 1979. Tile makers for the stars…

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Today’s Olive Oil Lamp

Last Tuesday, I made an olive oil lamp I wasn’t very happy with, so, today, I made another one. It took one and a half hours, from start to finish. An earlier post on ancient lamps was my guide and the first photo here shows ancient Roman and Parthian lamps. I so want one of these lamps — they produce a nice glow, have a pleasing scent, do not get hot, and I’d promised myself one. This one is larger than the originals and I plan on glazing the bottom half. As you can see from the photo, the old ones are unglazed and this is because these peoples had yet to invent glaze. I will glaze the bottom half because I don’t want oil seeping through the porous clay and staining surfaces I may set the lamp upon, like tablecloths. Thinking about either turquoise or burgundy on the bottom half, which will contrast nicely with the Navajo Red clay. I’ll use underglaze with a clear glaze over it and will show you the lamp in use when it’s finished!

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The World of Betty Woodman

I hope you’ll take a moment to click on this link because I’d like you to read this New Yorker article by Peter Schjeldahl about Betty Woodman. Born in 1930, she’s one of the most celebrated ceramists of our time. She is in the limelight once again, along with her family, as a film featuring the them,  “The Woodmans,” won a prize at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival; here’s another story about it.  In addition, the family is part of a show, Betty, Charlie, Francesca & George, which runs till the end of February in Boston. Here’s a review of the show in the Boston Globe. The family’s story is poignant and tragic — their daughter committed suicide thirty years ago, after which the work of Betty and her husband changed markedly. Here’s a slideshow of Betty’s work through ArtInfo. Please take a look!

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Making Slip for Slipcasting

This week at the studio, Otto talked about having made slip to use in plaster molds. A little piece he’d slip cast was on the work table when I came in. It’s been so long since I’d done any slip casting, it made me wonder what the ratio of clay to water should be, how it is made smooth enough to pour, etc. So, I found a couple of articles to share that concentrate on these aspects and more. I think the last time I did slip casting was with my Mom’s friend Nancy when I was seven or eight! Maybe it’s time to give her a whirl. Slip casting is a good article covering the process from start to finish and includes formulas. Basically, the ingredients consist of clay in dry form, water, water glass (sodium silicate). I’m a fan of and found some good information from one of their ceramic experts. He said, “any clay can be turned into a slip. Cut the wet clay up into small pieces and let it dry out completely. Put the dry pieces in a container and add water until it just covers the dry clay. let it sit, do not stir, you will be able to see the clay disintegrating as it absorbs the water. Within a few hours it will be ready, next day is better, mix up and use.” This is exactly what I wanted to know and I have some pieces I never bisqued for one reason or another. So, I think I’ll just break them up and follow Sam’s advice. Here is another site that gives good basic information. It is not an in-depth article, but covers the process of slip casting rather well. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the article, though, in terms of the length of time needed to mold a piece, because these articles have conflicting advice and I don’t know what to believe. Another article suggests 20-40 minutes, whereas the ‘another site’ article above says eight hours or longer, depending on the size. That sounds like an awfully long time. I guess I’ll just have to experiment and follow-up with Otto. I like the idea of slip casting something, then altering it to make it more of my own. Since a piece is leather hard when unmolded, I would still have the time to make changes. This video below on “Clay for the Slip Casting Process” gives more depth. Based on what this ceramist says, I would have to add a deflocculant like water glass or soda ash to make slip the right consistency. Also, I have to consider whether the clays I’m considering using are appropriate, a white and a red clay. According to the video, porcelain is a good choice. Because there are many questions still unanswered, I am going to have to ask the centre’s artist-in-residence more about slip casting to get a better idea and I will report what she says at a later time.


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Ceramic Bird Houses? Why not!

When I first saw a photo of a ceramic bird house, I thought, hmm, I don’t know…. Wouldn’t it become awfully hot inside? Bird houses must stay below a certain temperature, otherwise it’s harmful for nesting. Naturally, since it’s made of clay, it appeals to me and, I guess, if they’re removed from direct sunlight, it would be okay. The photo below right shows a replica of a bird house first created by New England colonists. A bird bottle, it encourages nesting for insect control. According to a Knox News article by Marcia Davis, “in 1752, a published advertisement listed ‘Martin pots’ for sale” and “an inventory in 1716 of the possessions of one Williamsburg property listed 16 bird bottles.” Davis explains that, “bird bottles provide nest sites for several cavity-nesting birds that eat large quantities of insects.” She continues, saying, “Carolina wrens are notorious for their daily patrols around the eaves and walls of houses. They’re looking for insects.” The Williamsburg Bird Bottle, at the right, is a bird bottle made by Paul Anthony Stoneware. While such birdhouses  would not be feasible where I live, because of predation by squirrels, it’s an innovative use of a vessel. Next, we have a cone-shaped bird house, hand-built by the same potter (who hails from North Carolina). I very much like this bird house and I think my Mom would like one, too, as she pointed it out to me last week in her new issue of Birds and Blooms, an old-fashioned magazine with a Canadian-American emphasis. Anthony’s site lists it as a two-piece bird house that is slab-built. It has a “nesting platform in the lower cone,” he explains, adding that “the cap lid raises for easy cleaning.” It’s 14″ high. While I was considering these houses, I thought, well, what about wattle and daub? Some birds use this technique, swallows, for instance. I remember once seeing cliff swallow nests while floating down the Bitterroot River, south of Missoula, Montana. They lined the light-colored sandstone cliffs and created a lovely sight as we lazily floated down the slow-moving channel in the summer sunshine. Barn Swallows make nests out of mud and sticks, too, so it made me wonder if anyone was making birdhouses with this method. Sure enough, I came across a group in New York that is making wattle and daub birdhouses. I rather like the idea and think it makes a lot of sense to mimic nature this way. If it’s good enough for Gaia, it’s good enough for us! I’m sure this version would be cooler than a glazed bird house, too. But, I don’t know how well it’d do over time in our rainy climate! Again, if it was in a sheltered area, it would last longer. I am so enamored of our Chestnut-backed Chickadees feeding during the winter, I think I might try to build a clay bird house for spring. Last spring, Black-capped Chickadees nested in a wooden bird house on the side of our Shore Pine. It would be nice to have several birdhouses in use. I’ll have to do a little more research before I begin, though. Would it be best to glaze the inside? It would certainly make it easier to clean it out after nesting season and it wouldn’t absorb moisture. I notice the venting on the cone-shaped house above and have that in mind, too. Maybe some holes along the upper portion would suffice. Last year, I had the darndest time keeping squirrels from our baby chickadees. I kept dashing out with a squirt bottle, spraying the squirrels with water every time I saw them harassing the nesting birds. I know it’s nature at work, but grr. One thing I found while I was trying to figure out a way to prevent predation was what looked like a good deterrent. It was a metal tube that you screwed to the outside of the bird house. Squirrels can reach their paws inside the nest and drag the nestlings outside and this tube prevents that. I could make a bird house with a built-in tube about the width of a paper towel tube and long enough to deter our little black squirrel or, at least, prevent them from nabbing nesting birds. Anyway, it’s worth thinking about. In the meantime, here is a photo of barn swallows in their wattle and daub home. (Stay tuned: one of these days, I’ll figure out how to be consistent with fonts on my posts but, until then…)


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Cooking in Clay: au Gratin dishes

Rachael Ray's Au Gratin Bubble and Brown Dish

“There are as many ‘authentic’ versions of gratin dauphinois as there are of bouillabaisse.” — Julia Child

I have four au gratin dishes, two different sets and I find them useful because of their size. Shallow and elongated, they allow food to cook and brown evenly. Usually, cheese or bread crumbs and butter are part of traditional recipes and the dish is placed under a broiler in the final stages of cooking. While they all have the same oval shape, au gratin dishes come in different sizes and are made of different clays, some heavier, some lighter. The set of Rachael Ray dishes at the top left have a light, modern look and I can imagine how pretty they’d look with fresh sliced tomatoes peeking through the browned bread crumbs on top. Gratin cookware can be fancy, delicate, or designed for heavy use. It also tends toward cheerful colors and the most gloomy day can be pepped up by using them. Besides, what’s more homey and inviting than the crackle and pop, the mouth-watering aroma, and the rustic appeal of a dish cooked au gratin? The stoneware dishes at the right, 

Barking Spider Pottery's Rust Au Gratin Dishes

made by Barking Spider Pottery in North Carolina, are quite lovely and look like they would hold heat well and be a long-lasting addition to your kitchen. I wouldn’t mind having a set of these myself! Interestingly, heavy restaurant-ware versions of gratin cookware are sold as Welsh Rarebit china. (I’m not sure why there is such a distinction because that classic dish is usually cooked and served on a plate.) Many companies carry mass-produced gratin dishes, including Pfaltzgraff and le Creuset. As far as recipes, here are 19 from Emeril’s site, which are bound to please!

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