Monthly Archives: April 2011

Still sick

Dear friends, am still couch-ridden today but hope to post the Marilyn Levine Smithsonian interview tomorrow.

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I’m Sick

Dear Friends,
I am very ill today — am dictating this to Mark –. I hope to see you on Sunday.


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Article Round-up: Ceramics, Repetitive Stress, and Ergonomics

Instead of having our general Friday news briefs, I’ve opted to cover a specific topic, ceramics and health issues. We all know about the dangers of inhaling clay dust, but there are many other areas we can attend to keep ourselves healthy or to work within the limits of our health conditions. Personally, I am unable to do some of the things I used to be able to do with clay. In addition, I have altered some of the ways I do things to compensate for problems I have with arthritis in my neck and hands. I know I am not the only one…many are in the same boat. Potters, sculptors and ceramists, as a group, suffer from repetitive strain and cumulative trauma to joints and tissues. Tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia. Also, back, neck, and shoulder pain and muscle strain. Yes, we can become stronger, physically, by working with clay, but we do pay certain ways. Here are some links to briefs about issues and solutions. For good measure, I’ve even thrown in a story about skin care for potters. If we take proper care of ourselves, we will be able to prevent injuries and enjoy our passion, ceramics.


MDGuidelines Occupational Information for Thrower, MD Guidelines. Job description of potter, list of occupational hazards of throwing.

How you can beat aches and pains if you love doing pottery, by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR, A rheumatologist discusses areas of the body that are affected from repeated throwing over time, especially the neck.

safety – health, updated April 18, 2011, Clayart. A subject list for the message board on the site…attends many health-related subjects relevant to potters. Arthritis and repetitive strain injury account for many entries.


ERGONOMICS IN THE CERAMIC STUDIO: PROPER STUDIO EQUIPMENT AND EXERCISE, by Jayne Shatz,  October 22, 2009, CERAMIC WRITINGS FROM JAYNE SHATZ. Covers health issues, ergonomics, and the role of exercise in keeping fit enough to prevent injury and strain.

Prevent Wrist Injuries,February, 2011, Pottery-on-the-Wheel, How to prevent repetitive motion, repetitive strain to the wrist.

4000 year-old technology solves injury problem, increases output 20%, and eliminates rejects, by Dan MacLeod, January 10, 2006. An ergonomics consultant shows how he modified a potter’s wheel to create an ergonomic work station.

Ergonomics and Ceramics: An overview, by Johanna DeMaine, Australian Ceramics. An Australian Ceramics Association publication detailing all aspects of ceramics work and how to improve the way we work with clay.

Is Ceramic Clay Good for Skin?, Elizabeth Beeson, February 4, 2011, Suite 101. Skin care is especially important…dry skin, abraded skin from working with heavily grogged clay….

Take Great Care of Your Hands: Preventing Repetitive Strain Injury with Stretches and Warmth, by Paula S. Morgan, Written for beaders, but much of it applies to us…the need to stretch and take breaks.

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Open Studio Report, April 26th & 27th

Time-sensitive projects meant two studio sessions this week. The weather is very cold in British Columbia, so clay projects win out over gardening. It actually hailed today when I was out walking with my friend, Gail, so tonight I wore my winter boots. It’s almost May! Well, I guess if Easter was late this year, so is warmer weather. Here’s a run-down on what’s up:

26th: I charged into the studio breathing industry and, therefore, accomplished much. Molded two dishes out of  white clay, one round and shallow, about 14″ wide and, the other, rectangular with sloping walls, about 12″ x 8″. I would like to use white underglaze and Shino on this one…simple, yet glowing with the warmth of that beautiful glaze. I am keeping in mind the decor of the homes of the people I’m giving them to as gifts: warm and cool. Maybe a majolica combo on the bowl… After I set those in the damp room to dry, I switched gears. My bird house was ready for the decorative elements I’d made the week before. It was drying quite nicely, too, knock on wood, as the patches seem to have worked. Reglazed the olive oil lamp bottoms…I sound like a broken record and just want to finish and light them. Brought home the brown sugar medallions. If I could only be this productive each day I’m in the studio!

27th: The main reason I went in tonight was to do finish work on the bird house before it gets any dryer. Time to cut the holes for the hangers. I bored one hole through the centre of the lid and was going to move to the house portion, but noticed a crack wasn’t patched successfully, so I temporarily turned my attention away from cutting holes in the lower cone. I cut away, scored, then filled the crack…fixed it as best I could, but I really need to turn it upside down and work on the underside. I did what work I could by easing my hand under it and working on the crack from that side, but I can’t see what I’m doing well enough. Also, I’d better bring the whole thing home and work on it further. I’m worried about it. Time investment; lots of clay. Can I carefully turn it upside down in a box of foam peanuts? Bubble wrap? Hmm, will sleep on it. Besides working on this project, I did a few other things. Organized my supplies and projects in the damp room. Added a mold of my “Sunrise” tile I made tonight. Molded a thinner “Trees” tile, my first thin one. It looks good! Placed it between plaster to dry. Pauline, my friend/artist-in-residence, and I were the only people in the hand-building area for most of the evening, so we chatted and enjoyed each other’s company. I told her I wanted to get some Frost porcelain. I’ve never used it but want to see what it’s like. I’m home now, have rested, written, snacked, and have definitely decided to bring my bird house home. I will work on it here and take it back to the studio next Tuesday. One week will make or break the project. I know what my mistakes were. One I cannot rectify, the other I can. I didn’t use paper clay, the first mistake. I haven’t dried it slowly enough, second. Me, the gal who is so careful, I can dry things 6 months before firing…just to make sure…I can work with this, though and will patch it up and dry it right.

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