Tag Archives: olive oil lamps

Olive oil lamps for dark autumn nights…

Every once in a while I will repost an article that is appealing for a particular time of year. We are over the threshold of November and this Saturday night we set our clocks back for Daylight Savings Time. I thought it was a good time to think about how we can bring more light into our lives during the evenings. I enjoyed making my first olive oil lamps last winter and I think I’d like to recreate some more based on the open designs of the ancient Roman and Parthian lamps (pictured below). Olive oil has a low flash point and it has been used as lamp fuel for millennia. I had an olive oil lamp once that my Mom gave me and it made a nice, soft glow. (It was also healthy, unlike the fumes emitted when petroleum-based oils burn in hurricane lamps.) Below, I explain how to make an olive oil lamp out of clay. View the photos below for reference.

  • Mold Technique: Using a small bowl for a mold, make two halves that will fit together. The size is up to you, but most olive oil lamps are smallish. Join the two halves well, scratching the edges and using slip. After it’s almost leather hard, cut a hole in the top through which you will later pour oil, so make it big enough. After shaping, cut a smaller hole in the side from which you will feed the wick.
  • Pinch Pot Technique: Make a small pinch pot, narrowing the opening at the top. You will pour oil into the lamp through this hole, so make it big enough. After shaping, cut a smaller hole in the side from which you will feed the wick .
  • Shaping: Some of the shape the ancients used looked like modified Aladdin’s lamps…the vessel’s low, rounded body held the olive oil and a narrowed spout ended with a wick hole. You can fashion a handle, if you’d like, but it’s not crucial because the lamp doesn’t get hot and can easily be carried from the bottom.
  • Decorating: Decorate your lamp as you wish, using stamps, or by engraving, slip trailing or modeling. Apply decorations at the appropriate time, given the construction method you’ve chosen.
  • Usage: Place a wick in your fired, unglazed lamp. (Find wicking in a hobby store or use a snippet of cotton shoelace. Cut the wick long enough to have space to burn down.) Place the wick in the bottom of lamp, feeding the end out of the smaller hole. Leave about a third of an inch sticking out. Then, fill the lamp about three-quarters full by pouring olive oil in through the top hole.


Ancient Roman and Parthian olive oil lamps.


Candle wicking used to light the lamp.


My completed lamp makes a soft glow.


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Fun, Home and Garden, How-to-do-it, My Work, Videos/Photos/Slides

Open Studio Report

Today was my first day back in the studio since April 28th. It was heavenly: being able to work with clay, sitting around the table with friends, and seeing what they’ve been working on. Jumping right in, I made three chanterelle mushrooms from white clay, I checked on another project, and then I was tired out. We had a nice lunch, then I came home and took a long rest. It is the first time I’d gone somewhere and done something since my surgery. I mean I’ve been to the library and out with friends for coffee and meals and such, but this was the first time I physically exerted myself doing something away from home, well, since April 28th…the night I fell ill. So, it felt good but also winded me. I was able to take a couple of things home, though, which felt good and seemed symbolic. It’s taken a half a year to finish these little puppies and I’d re-glazed them twice…my olive oil lamps. We just put wicks in and lit them….  They are so lovely! I’ll wait till it gets darker, 9:30ish, then will snap photos of them for you. At long last. To me, today, they symbolize hope. They are cheerful. Plus, I made them, which makes it all the nicer. (If you’d like to make your own, click here for instructions.) People have used such lamps for millennia. Olive oil has a nice scent, it burns clean, and produces a large enough flame to read by. The lamps don’t get warm. It’s so nice to have been able to bring them home and light them today!

Reproduction Roman Olive Oil Lamp


Filed under Articles and Interviews, Fun, Home and Garden, My Work

Open Studio on ArtWalk Day, April 17th

We had so much fun in the studio yesterday! It was the last day of the ArtWalk and we were all feeling festive. Pauline Doyle and Dan Severance showed their lovely work in the main studio area. I’d say about 100 or more people came by the studio. After seeing Pauline and Dan’s work, couples, families and individuals worked their way down the hall, looking at displays. Finally, they arrived at the area where the Open Studio crew was working, the throwing room, the glazing/kiln room and the space between. As Gary sculpted his horse, he drew quite a crowd. Many people had never see such a work in progress and they were spellbound. Gary’s friendly and he chatted and answered all their questions. Sylvia wedged clay and threw along with Lily. And there were treats aplenty.

Action: While Gary did sculpted, I worked on my tiles and bird house. I finished three terra-cotta tiles, then, sandwiched them between plaster bats to hasten drying time. My “Sheaf of Wheat” tile had been bisqued and I brought it home to mold. Interestingly, the mold that grew on the clay during the lengthy drying period didn’t burn out when bisqued. It stained the tile. It won’t affect my tile, since I’ll glazed it after molding, but I thought it was curious…. Shifted the brown sugar medallions to the bisque area, as they’re bone dry. After firing, I’ll give them to friends. Just a little something….

Plans: My oil lamps were glaze fired but I’m going to have to redo them because they aren’t sealed on the bottom. Did I wipe the glaze off before firing, like usual? Silly me. The entire bottom half of the lamps needs to be glazed, so the oil doesn’t seep through when I light them. Will reglaze, then fire upside down. No sweat… Let’s see, I worked on my bird house and am very happy with it. The lid is well-supported during the drying phase and it isn’t cracking. However, this coming Tuesday, I have to do some serious work on the whole bird house:

  • cut a hole sized to the type of bird I want to attract,
  • assemble the bird house to figure out where I’ll cut holes to thread the chains,
  • affix the decorative knobs at the top and bottom,
  • test the nesting platform to see if it’s stable,
  • finish all decorative treatment,
  • check under the lid and inside the house for cracks,
  • fix any cracks I find with paper clay,
  • and, finally, start thinking of my glaze treatment.

The bird house will hang from a big leaf maple tree, as I want it to be shaded. Direct sun could hurt the baby birds. About glazing…I do intend to glaze the inside, even though it will make it heavier. If you’ve ever cleaned out a bird house at the end of a season, you know about the insects and larvae that  cling to the inside walls. A sealed interior will be easier to clean.

The first sparrow of spring! The year beginning with younger hope than ever!… What at such a time are histories, chronologies, traditions, and all written revelations? The brooks sing carols and glees to the spring.” — Henry David Thoreau

1 Comment

Filed under Articles and Interviews, Current Events, Featured Artists, Home and Garden, How-to-do-it, My Work

Open Studio Report, 3-29

STUDIO: It felt so good to be back in the studio again after a week’s down time because of a sore throat. I missed my projects and the conviviality of my studio mates. At this point, I am officially behind on my bird house and may miss spring nesting this year. If that happens, it’s okay, as it will still look nice hanging from our wide-leaf maple tree, but I’d rather it be done and up. Also, after I started undoing the wrappings on my project, I remembered I hadn’t looked up the dimensions for the hole in the bird house. Skipped that step and made the ball-shaped knobs that will go on the bottom and top and repaired a crack with homemade paper clay, slip and tissue bits. Think I’ll bring the project home and work on it over the week, as time is of the essence. On Tuesday, I also started experimented with draping and folding some terra-cotta. Rigged a temporary mold of odds and ends and worked with  a 1/8″ thick terra-cotta sheet, but even that was too thick. Now, I must investigate techniques for increasing malleability and rolling out very, very thin….

Bisquing: I finally placed my wheat tile and oil lamps on the Cone 6 firing shelves, so next week I can make a mold of the tile and start drying it. Maybe, just maybe I’ll make the mold this week. Ge a jump on it…

Plans: I liked the effect of white underglaze with Shino over it, so think that is what I’ll do when I glaze the original wheat tile next week…will look golden and beautiful with the wheat motif. Also, I’m going to start making smaller, thinner tiles, ones that will dry faster and cost less to mail. Beforehand, I will start developing some more Arts & Crafts motifs. Time, time, I am going to start dividing my time differently: working at home more. The focus of Open Studio time will change, be devoted more to things I cannot do at home: using the slab roller, glazing and firing. I want to pick up the pace a bit and I love working at home, so I look forward to these changes.

HOME: Today, I made three ‘trees’ tiles and a slew of brown sugar medallions. At least one of the tiles will become a “Snowfall,” but I’m not sure about the others. It’s spring after all! For the medallions, I used Cathy Camley’s suggestion for forming a nice rounded edge: place plastic over the clay, then push a cutter down over the plastic and the rolled clay. Works very well!

Plans: I also booted up etsy.com and will sign up for it after I finish this post. I am considering either joining a team or forming one. More on that later, but first I’ll join on my own. This week, I engaged WordPress‘ Happiness Engineers for a guided transfer from .com to .org. I had so wanted to go with Laughing Squid for a hosted service because it’s an indie that supports the arts. However, I am not a techie, it’s not a WP option for a transfer, so must forego it. Instead, I am going with Blue Host, which has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau. I am also ordering my greenhouse kit today, so am very excited about that. That got me thinking about clay garden markers, but one thing at a time….

Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized