Tuesday, August 31, 2010


After so much heat  and humidity, but not much rainfall this summer, we did have some nice rains that gave the flowers the nourishment they needed.

Sweet Autumn Clematis on the courtyard fence
I went out to take a photo of the Sweet Autumn Clematis... as I walk past it every morning on my way to the car, I see snow capped mountains.  The photo doesn't do justice to what my eyes see.

No much more that 2 weeks ago, the poor Black-eyed Susan's were scraggly and their blooms were weak and waif-ish. 

 They are not show-stoppers now, but they sure look a lot better!

I am working on glazing, and the photos of that are not too good, so I thought I'd give you some flowers to look at during the wait... Kathy's Midnight Rain large mug is in the works, as are the 2 for brother Bill and others as well...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

TA DA! The Larger Mug!

Bisqued mugs with glaze Plum and Surf

This morning I loaded up the kiln (well... really only one shelf of it).  I was so excited to finally have finished larger mugs!

First peek!

So... I loaded it up and fired it off before I went into work.  Past experience has proven that this clay body can handle quick firing VERY well.

After work, I went out to the shed and checked to see that the kiln sitter actually did turn it off properly, and it was no longer glowing.  So, I propped the lid open about an inch.  And I went back into the house for dinner.

It was soooooo hard to wait, but wait I did, I gave it til the end of dinner, and then took this first peek photo before closing the lid onto the prop at about 3 inches to cool some more.  Then I checked the quick photo and saw no obvious signs of cracks or excessive warpage.  That is a good thing!

I then waited about an hour for it to cool enough to unload with the kevlar gloves... 

the finished mugs!

It was worth the wait!  The mugs are GORGEOUS, if I say so myself!

In this photo (sorry about the color being so off), I put one of the smaller mugs (a second) to compare the sizes, yet again...

The new mug is a TINY bit (1/8") larger than I had planned, but that is fine with me!  It holds 1 7/8 cups per dinnerware industry standards (to the rim) compared to a cup for the original mug,

I must say, as long as people have been asking for this new mug, I am so glad it is finally here!

My thanks go to a number of people, mainly my brother Bill for getting the beautiful model made for me after my sitting on the drawings for so many years.  My friend Mike needs thanks for helping me get the coddles made quicker than I could have done them by myself (and for pushing me extra hard to get back to making my pottery 5 years ago...).  I also need to thank my ex-husband Verne and my father-in-law Wally for all they taught me about model & mold making and the ceramic industry, without your teaching me, I could not do what I do.  My parents need to be thanked as well for their moral support in my creative process, and giving me a place to live and to create.  All of my friends and family get thanks as well for their support, suggestions and encouragement.  And my customers need thanks too, for liking my work and buying it!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Successful Bisque Firing!

This morning I loaded just the large mugs that were dry enough into the kiln for a bisque firing.

6 large mugs ready to bisque to cone 04!
 I started the firing at about 8:15 or so and then went off to work... When I returned home, I unloaded the kiln after dinner.  Of course, they were still a bit toasty (needed kevlar gloves to unload the kiln) but they cooled pretty quickly.

5 large mugs sanded...
Unfortunately, I had not made much in a few months and I forgot I was nearly out of 400 grit wet/dry sand paper... and I could only sand 5 of the 6 mugs before the paper was too worn out to do any good.  (Need to pick some more up tomorrow!)

large mug and small mug with ruler for comparison
Here is a photo comparing the bisqued mugs in both sizes.

As I sanded them, I was able to detect that the firing was a total success!  None of them cracked!

large mug & small mug bisqued, small mug glaze fired
This photo shows the comparison of the small mug bisqued and then glaze fired... When the large mug shrinks in the glaze firing, it should end up approximately the size that the small mug is when it is bisqued...

(Those bisqued mugs really are straight, the towel under them tilted them a bit to the left...)

the return of the parsley!

And lastly, just to show that the parsley really is doing well, a photo I took of it on Sunday morning... soon we'll be able to enjoy it again!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Comparison #2


I cast the first of my Larger Mugs last night!  Being the first pour of a new mold, it was slow in releasing... so, I let it sit overnight (OK to do since there are no undercuts to hang-up during shrinkage)... 

When I woke up this morning (at 5:15!) I was not clear-headed enough to feel like I should be handling the mug... so, I waited patiently (ie - caught up on my blog reading) and opened it about 6:30 when I was feeling a bit more clear-headed and steady.

First pouring of Larger Mug!
I am soooooooooo pleased with the results!  The 2nd pouring is draining as I type and may be able to be released from the mold before I go into work this morning... if not, that's OK, it can wait until I get home this afternoon (not sure if I can wait that long though!) [** UPDATE - I was able to release it before 8 AM, and a THIRD one is draining right now!**]

As I was photographing the new mug, I noticed a dry mug in the background that it's handle broke, so, to compare the two at this stage is close to the final difference in size.  The amount of shrinkage in the drying is minimal, compared to the final firing.

The handle-less Original Mug (dry) with the Larger Mug (leather hard)

So... a side-by-side comparison... WOW... I am EXCITED!  Can you tell???

A top view... color is off... but it works...

This is 20 years in the works... the excitement I feel is hard to describe!  To actually see it in clay... that drives it home to me.  The wooden model was great, to see in 3-D finally, but in clay brings it to an altogether different level for me!

In my bog reading this morning, I concentrated on clay blogs... well, clay bead blogs... I have been trying to get some clay beads and pendants and buttons made, now that my clay muse has returned, and is in a productive mode... maybe I can get some of those done as well... WHILE filling the requests I have already on my list!  Starting tonight, I will add a status line at the top like my friend Kelley does, that way everyone will know where they stand.  Why not now, you ask... because I have clay to attend to, that's why!

Wishing you all a fabulous day filled with wonderful things...

And sending purrs to Kelley on the new addition to her family... can't wait to see pictures!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A little comparison...

Just to let you know the difference in sizing for the mugs...  My original mug, if I don't cast it too thick, holds 8 oz. per the dinnerware industry standards (to the rim).  The new mug is about 18% larger.  Why 18% you ask???  Well, because the porcelain shrinks so much (18%) I was asking a few people over the years how large they'd like the mug.  I showed them the mold for the original mug.  They liked the size it starts out as the finished size.  Wha-la!  That is how I decided to make the larger mug 18% larger.  How much it will hold is an unknown at the moment.  (I should be able to start casting them tonight after work!  YAY!!!)

Original side-by-side with Large...

And, a photo of my nephew DragonBen taken yesterday, his last day of summer vacation before starting 5th grade!

What a face!

Monday, August 16, 2010

And the Winner Is...

56 entries

mix them up well...

 I want to thank all 29 people who entered for a total of 56 entries in my August Giveaway.  I have found some fun new blogs to follow in the process!

I wanted to do this drawing as early as possible... I had the names written last night and in the fabric bowl, waiting to see if any new entries would join them this morning... none did

So, I drew the name of the winner of the August Giveaway - ledamewood!

Then, feeling a bit celebratory over finishing the mold set for the Larger Mug... I decided on the spur of the moment to do a second drawing from the same group... to be added to the list to receive a new Larger Mug when they are ready...

Mix them up again for a 2nd SURPRISE drawing...

And Carol Dean of Sand Fibers is the winner of my SURPRISE 2nd DRAWING!

Congratulations to both of you - I will be sending emails to you in just a few minutes (as soon as this is posted).

My apologies to my niece Karen who really wanted to win this... but she knows where to get a necklace and mug made by me anyway... I love you Karen!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Larger Handle Mold is FINISHED too!!

This handle needed to be about an inch longer than the handle on my original mug.   Otherwise it might not be balanced when the mug is filled with the beverage of choice...  Not wanting to deal with the fragility of carving a new handle, out of plaster, from scratch, I press molded a handle in the smaller mold, then press molded a smaller section and spliced them together.  I used my modeling clay for this process.
The model set up to pour the waste mold
The waste mold with modeling clay keys added

Once I had the waste mold made, and added some modeling clay keys, I was able to set up the coddles and cast the first side of the working mold.

ready to pour!

Then, I had to wait for the modeling clay to cool off after casting the first half of the mold.  The heat from the curing of the plaster caused the model to deform when I removed the waste mold... So we went out to eat for Dad's birthday...

Not too bad... needed a little more work before casting the second part of the mold...

Ready to pour part 2!

this is what the poured side looks like while it is curing!  Almost like watching paint dry...

Waiting to see what the mold looks like... patience!  I don't want to open the mold too quickly, the plaster might not be hard enough... breathe!

When I finally opened it, I noticed some air pockets inside... but they are patchable... and I just want to get a few mugs out of this to see how they work...

OK - it isn't a pretty mold... but it'll work!

Then I strapped it all together and put in in front of the fan to dry... With all of the humidity, I don't know if I'll be able to cast tomorrow evening or not... time will tell...
The set of molds for the larger mug!

And here is a photo of Dad's gift all wrapped this morning...  (A little bit of color to the post, plaster is kind-of boring looking...)

Giveaway & Parsley

Viking Braid in (from top) Non-tarnish Brass, Non-tarnish Silver & Non-tarnish Copper
First order of 'business'... The deadline for my August Giveaway is midnight tonight.  And entries received after that, sorry.  I will choose the winner when I get up tomorrow morning and see if there are any additions to the drawing.  I am doing it by names since I haven't figured out the random number generator thingy yet...
If you want to enter, scroll down to the original post and the 'Another way to enter' post for rules.

The sprouts are thriving!
Next on the agenda is the Italian Parsley plant that was devoured by the Black Swallowtail army of caterpillars this past week.  It is thriving!  There were 4 sprouts visible yesterday afternoon and they look healthy!  All the Parsley needed was a little pruning.  And the result being the possibility that there will be 10 more Black Swallowtail butterflies in our garden is DEFINITELY worth it!

The Basil

And, I did keep a watchful eye on the Basil (every time I snipped some off to add to lunch or dinner) even though it is not on the list of preferred foods for the Black Swallowtail Caterpillar...  And, it looks (and tastes) GREAT!

So, in conclusion, if you have not entered the giveaway and would like to, please do so today or your eligibility will expire.  And, if you should ever see the beautiful caterpillars I did this week, munching away at your parsley, I hope you can let them enjoy their feast.  That is, unless you are growing the Parsley for profit and can't afford to lose any right now...

Hoping you all have a wonderful Sunday.  I have a handle mold to make.!

The Larger Mug Mold is FINISHED!!!

Despite the heat and humidity, I persevered and finished the mold for the Large Mug...

Measured & marked carefully... secured model to the coddles.

First, There was a lot that went into making this mold... I have taken some step-by-step photos to walk you through it.

Making sure the coddles meet tightly...

Adding the last side with the model attached...

After I had the box made for the plaster to be cast in, it was time to pour the plaster....

The plaster was slowly added to the water and allowed to slake for a few minuted before mixing...                                                                                           

Gently mixing the plaster so as not to introduce any bubbles...

What happens when the plaster is mixed too long... it gets messy!

I don't know where to look in that storage unit for all of my formula sheets to know how much plaster to make... so it was trial and error.  My first pour (besides being too thick) was not enough, so I needed to make more to top it off.  This part of the mold was a waste mold part to help set up for the actual working mold parts.

It cleaned up pretty well!
 After pouring that, I needed to cut some keys (registration) into the waste mold so when the working mold is finished it will fit together properly every time.
The waste mold with keys all set up for the next pouring.

Again, I sealed the surfaces with release and set up the coddles once more...

The new mold part - looks fabulous!

And the pair of working mold parts - FINISHED!

I won't show you the pouring of the second working mold part, it looks pretty much the same...

Here is the completed mold with the model showing them off for us!  

The mold all strapped together and set to dry.

I made my mark!

What to do with left over plaster :~)

Now my mold is complete!  Yay!  I just have to finish the handle mold today (it dries faster) and I can start casting.  

Please, don't put any visions in your head of me doing a happy dance, it isn't a pretty sight!  Which is why I only do one when I am alone!

And, for those of you who know that you NEVER pour unused plaster down a sink without the proper settling tank, what do you do?  I just poured it out on the ground and picked it up after it cured and threw it away!

And, as a side note... today is my Dad's 79th birthday... HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Larger Mug

Some people started asking for this when I first started making my Ebonyware mugs... 20 years ago... the current mug sold so well, I procrastinated... then took a couple of years off from production, for a number of reasons... and now, do not have the equipment to make the turned models.  What to do?  Then, in talking with my brother Bill back in April, I discovered he has a lathe.  A-Ha!  Out comes the drawing I've had - FOREVER!  And he agreed to make me a wooden mug model.  YAY!!! Thanks for being such a wonderful and helpful big brother!

The beautiful turned wooden mug model - out of cherry!  Gorgeous as a piece of art in itself!                                                                                                                                    

The model and my newly made plywood coddles to make the framework to pour the plaster into.                                                                                                        
I took some photos of them as they were drying after a coat of clear polyurethane was applied... light sanding in the morning and another coat...  Plaster should be able to be cast on Saturday!  If the sun stays out, I should have a dry mold to work with on Monday...  I can't wait!

Hopefully the new coddles and the mold in the imminent future will entice my muse to return from wherever she has been hiding.  I am taking all the extra time I would have been in pottery classes and just diving in!  Well... almost all... I did take a bit of time to feel disappointed, but I'm over it now... I guess my pottery related creative slump is officially OVER!

My first few large mugs are spoken for already (and YES - I will complete the wish lists of others at the same time), including the Cider Mug Sale at the Clemson Arts Center in September.