Tag Archives: home decor

Fire bowls/firepots are a major safety issue

FireIconThey seem like a good idea. Beautiful glaze treatments, lovely shapes, lovely light. However, fire bowls are causing serious accidents and, at the very least, extreme caution must be used around them. At the most, they shouldn’t be used at all. I would never use one, given the mounting evidence. This might be a controversial stand, given how popular they are right now but, to me, the safety issue outweighs the fad.

Gel fuel is used in fire bowls and therein lies part of the issue. Basically, burns from gel fuel accidents are the same as napalm burns.

Usually fuel usage and safety greatly depends upon the person involved. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people who poured more charcoal lighter fluid onto a fire that had already been lit. Sometimes the fuel in the can lit on fire. Well, the same scenario can happen with gel fuel used in fire bowls. Even if a person takes care, though, accidents happen because sometimes the ceramic fire bowl explodes, showering those nearby with flaming fuel. In addition, the gel itself can explode. Click here and here and if you want to read more about recent cases (caution, it’s graphic and disturbing).

We are used to using candles and we’ve learned to use them with care. Oil lamps and kerosene lanterns cannot be lit until you reassemble the lamp and light the wick. But, whether you’re using gel fuel with a Bunsen burner, fondue pot, or decorative fire bowl, you simply pour the fuel into the holder and light it.

The thing is, ceramic fire bowls seem to be sold everywhere right now. I’ve seen inexpensive, mass-produced versions at hardware and houseware stores. I’ve seen gorgeous, hand-thrown fire bowls in shops and gallery gift stores. I would like to think that the people who are selling these or making them don’t realize how dangerous they can be. Here is an entry on Snopes related to the issue. Here is a youtube video about the issue from a personal injury lawyer. Believe me, The Consumer Products Safety Commission would not have recalled 2 million jugs or cans of gel fuel had there been no reason.

As artisans, we naturally want what we create and sell to be safe for consumers. It’s time to rethink fire bowls. Aside from the possibility of harm, there is a legal liability issue.

Buying Christmas gifts? Reconsider that fire bowl….

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Saw some Sid Dickens Memory Blocks yesterday

Leonardo da Vinci - Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with an Ermine) - WGA12698

Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci. Facial detail shown on Sid Dickins Memory Block #T223

I was showing my in-laws around town Friday when we stopped in at Chartreuse Living, a home decor store here in Port Moody. I like going there because they carry Sid Dickens’ Memory Blocks. I especially wanted to show them to my mother-in-law. Their inventory was low, but they had enough to give her an idea about what they are all about. Such excellent craftmanship, as well as exquisitely beautiful artwork. If you’d like to read more about him and his line, click here. His motifs revolve around architectural detail, art masterpieces, seasonal themes. I have my favorites… If you would like to see the full range of Memory Blocks, click here. You won’t be disappointed. It’s a well-designed site and shows his artwork off with lush photography, emphasizing the Old World connection. I am hardly the only fan of his work, though. Below are some other sites that feature him, too. My company left today, I’m resting up and will be back with you tomorrow… In the meantime, check out these sources:





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Open Studio Update

Upper half: Cottage White base; Red Chrome berry, Oribe Green vine/leaf. Coverage uneven, dilution okay.

Today was an instructive day, a bit difficult, but interesting. I’m struggling with glaze samples. Achieving a specific effect can take a lot of time, energy, and experimentation. That bowl or plate you see in the gift shop or gallery? It can represent oodles of time spent by the artisan trying to get the right look (or having a happy accident). Right now, I am trying to achieve a particular effect on a tile: diluted and watercolory effect. But, at the moment, I feel like I’m trying to reinvent the wheel because it’s taking a heck of a lot of time. First, I’m using a creamy white matte base,  Cottage White glaze. The ‘task’ is to with find the right way to color the decorations: vines, leaves, and berries. I want the colors to be realistic but understated and, to whit, and am working with  colored and clear glazes and colored underglazes. I thought it would be easier to create the look I want, so I’d been using actual tiles

(Dim photo; not true color.) Undiluted Pine Green and Purple underglaze. Too bold and dark, needs softening.

for glaze samples, but that’s been a wasteful approach. Today, I was forced to be realistic because, once again, the new glaze sample wasn’t what I wanted. Instead, I used a vessel that had warped when bisqued and it had a big surface area to play around on. Finished it in the nick of time and it’s being fired right now. Fingers crossed! Today’s approach: mixing amounts of Cottage White glaze with smaller amounts of select glazes and underglazes, then painting it over a surface glazed in Cottage White. By doing this, I’m trying to prevent the color from absorbing into the white glaze underneath, which makes the color grainy, like in the last photo shown at the bottom. It’s an interesting process. If I were to take up some water colors and brush, I could paint it exactly the way I want it to turn out… But ceramics doesn’t work that way. =/ So, I toil, I toil. Along the way, I’d better sit down and turn out a few more tiles

Sections have different percentages of diluted Pine Green and Red underglazes. Underglazes soaked into the Cottage White glaze underneath, causing a grainy look.

because I know that one fine day the effort will have been worth it and I’ll be able to replicate it. Soft colors, but not pastels…lovely colors against a soft, creamy background. It’s something sweet and decorative to put on your wall, preferably where you spend down time. When you’re reading a book, or sipping tea, you might glance over and see it. It holds your gaze because it’s enigmatic. As you study it, time shifts, you float through the keyhole and into the land of your daydreams…. Figuratively, it is something much different, as it is meant for women who enjoy life’s mysteries and are aware of them. A key can open your dreams, can give you leave see new options in your life. A key in a door unlocks…. Back to reality: I so hope the new glaze samples unlock the mystery of how to decorate these little guys!




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Cat-proof candlelight with ceramic luminaries

It was rainy, dark and rainy today. When I got home from walking at the community recreation centre, all I could think of was how comforting the gas fireplace seemed. It warmed me just looking at it and made me think of candlelight. Because we have a cat, we are very careful about using candles. Generally, we tend to use hurricane lanterns because they are enclosed and safe for the cat to be around. Tonight, I realized a good solution would be luminaria…ceramic ones. Maybe I thought of this because it’s New Year in India, Diwali, and millions of tiny clay lamps have been lit all over the globe to celebrate it. I first heard of the term luminaria through Sunset magazine many moons ago. It is a Hispanic tradition and a beautiful one: pathways and sidewalks are lined with paper  lanterns holding candles. Originally, luminaria had religious connotations associated with Catholicism, but now they are a secular decoration used on Christmas Eve. Candles in paper bags?! I know, it sounds dangerous, but if tea lights are used on an appropriate base, it is quite safe. The soft light that shows through Kraft paper is warm and enticing. Many potters make “luminaries” by throwing a vessel and carving holes in the walls after it has firmed up a bit. Designs or simple geometric shapes. They don’t have to be thrown, though, and many a fine luminary can be made by handbuilding.

Coil Technique: Either slabs or coils would work well and, if it were me, I would use coils, keeping them as is on the outside of the vessel, connecting and smoothing from the inside. Mark out the placement of windows, then cut away the coils in those areas after the vessel had dried a bit. Once I made a little toothpick holder for my Dad with this method and, tiny though it was, it turned out quite neat. Stains or glazes accentuating the spaces between coils look neat and accentuate color and form.

Slab Technique: Slab work very well, too, and you could make any shape you wanted. Simple is best, though, because it doesn’t detract from the candle. First, make a paper pattern, to make sure your measurements work, then cut a slab and base to measure. Let dry, covered, for a couple of days, then, once it is firm enough to work with, carefully cut out the openings before assembling. Porcelain would be especially nice if it was thin enough. Light would shine through the translucent walls, in addition to the cut outs. If you want to be more of a traditionalist, you could make sack shapes from porcelain. I’ve seen luminaries made this way and they’re really neat! Some have tiny serrations along the top like real paper bags.

If you would like to read more about making ceramic luminaries and see a few videos, click here.

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