Clay

Speckled Clay

I have been playing with different clay bodies over the past few months, and it’s been quite the experience. I’ve had some tragedies. But, I’m learning a bunch. The science of clay is fascinating. I may never really figure it out, but I can certainly learn, take notes, and keep trying new things.

What I know for sure – I’ve fallen in love with speckled brown clay. Completely in love. 

I bought my potter’s wheel used off Craigslist. When I went to pick it up, the guy who sold it to me (Adam) just kind of pushed a box of clay my direction and asked me if I wanted it. So, of course, I took it. Free clay? YES, PLEASE!

Little did I know that bag of clay was speckled brown clay. I just kind of started playing with it, and out of the kiln came gorgeous speckled goodness.

It’s one of my very favorite things.

 

Clay

All the Tiny Pots

I love throwing tiny. Trimming tiny, on the other hand, is a bit of a struggle. I can’t tell you how many tiny pots I’ve cut right through while trying to put a foot on them. Whoops!

Last week, my husband was out of town, which gave me an excuse to spend lots of time in the studio (without feeling guilty that I’m spending no time with him). I wasn’t feeling mugs or bowls or detailed stuff like teapots and lidded jars. I wanted to just get out of my head and throw.

Tiny pots were just the thing. They’re all different, and I threw them off the hump, so I made dozens of them very quickly – all little bitty vases and planters and bowls, none more than 3-4 inches tall. (Watch a super-speed video of me throwing them on Instagram.)

After drying for a couple days, I got them all trimmed, and underglazed about half of them for a little color blocked style, then sent them off to be fired.

I’ll update you later with finished picture, once I get them all glazed and shiny.

Clay

It’s Just Clay

My philosophy on making art is that it’s OK to make all kinds of mistakes. I learn best from mistakes. So, I’m constantly reminding myself that “It’s Just Clay,” or fabric, or paper, or whatever medium is in my hands.

It’s easy to get kind of lost in worrying about how things will turn out, or making everything perfect. And while I can be quite the perfectionist, I try to find joy and beauty in the imperfections too.

My friend, Meghan (Brothers and Brushes) made me this great sign. I hung it right in the middle of my studio. So, when I’m feeling like the clay is working against me, I can look up and be reminded that IT’S JUST CLAY. And I can take a breath, move on, and let it go.

Clay

Studio Tour

I talked about wanting a potter’s wheel for a while. I think my husband’s eyes got a little wider each time I mentioned it. I knew I could not afford a new wheel, and that even if i got a great deal on a used one, there were some concerns about having a potter’s wheel in our house.

At this point, I was already making ornaments from slabs in the house. It was messy, and i was being very careful with cleanup and disposal of the clay because I was worried about clay getting into our pipes.

One night, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was laying in bed looking at my phone. I did a quick Craigslist search (which I did often) for a potter’s wheel, and one popped up! It was in Richmond, Indiana. So, my next search was driving distance to Richmond. It was closer than I thought!

So I messaged the seller, and by noon the next day, I was discussing logistics with my husband.

The following day (Sunday), I got up, drove to Richmond, and exchanged a handful of cash for a dirty wheel, a stack of bats, 25 lbs of clay, and a stool. Then I turned around and drove home.

Over the next 6 weeks ago, my home studio came to life.

I got a great deal on some discontinued click-together vinyl floor tiles. I put that down to protect the wood flooring in our finished basement.

My dad came over and helped me hang drywall under the stairs, plumb and install a new sink, build a clay trap to protect our pipes and hang a new light fixture.

A few days later, I found an old used cabinet and installed it next to the sink with a piece of inexpensive countertop.

I also installed a bunch of shelves on the wall to hold my glazes and underglazes, and give me a place to dry my pieces before taking them to be fired at a local ceramic supply shop.

Of course, no creative space is complete without a little creativity on the walls. I hung a watercolor Picasso quote I painted a couple years ago, and this adorable little “It’s Just Clay” sign my good friend Meghan, owner and artist at Brothers & Brushes made for me.

Of course, while my little studio is actually pretty spacious, I had to expand a little outside of my room, just for the sake of efficiency.

For a while, I had all of my shipping supplies tucked in a corner of my studio, and all of my finished pieces wrapped up and in plastic tubs in storage. Every time I received an order, I had to go hunting for a piece and dig out packing materials. I tucked a little packing station in the corner of our basement bar area, and built some shelves to store my finished pieces. (The shelves are pretty bare right now, but I have new things in progress!)

I’m pretty delighted with my little studio and I have some ideas in mind to make it even better very soon.

Clay

Holiday Ornaments

These little letter ornaments, and the support of some awesome friends, started this adventure. I made this first batch in the autumn of 2016 to give to my family for Christmas. In September, upon request of a friend, I posted a photo of them on Facebook and Instagram and they kickstarted Riverlane Studios.

I made a big batch and listed them on Etsy. Since then, I’ve shipped them all over the United States.

I expanded to other shapes, including snowmen, snowflakes, dog bones, paw prints, reindeer and more. Then, I experimented with a variety of different paints that are advertised to be permanent on glazed ceramic, glass and porcelain so I could customize the shaped ornaments on the fly. (Some of these products should definitely not be advertised as permanent.)

I found just the right material, and started personalizing ornaments in person at craft shows and for orders sold online. The paint is permanent, scratch resistant, and dries quickly. I haven’t done extensive testing yet, but it seems to withstand standard wear. (Though I don’t think I would trust it in a dishwasher.)

I’ve also received custom requests for some really creative designs and have been delighted to bring those to life.

I’m looking forward to making another big batch for the 2018 holiday season, including many more custom items, new shapes, and maybe even some sculpted ornaments.

Clay

Pumpkins!

I was walking up to the grocery store and saw some adorable clay pumpkins. I picked one up, looked it over, considered purchasing it, and then I thought: “I’d really rather try to make one.”

So, in my next ceramics class, I sat down and attempted to throw a really big closed form, to be altered into a pumpkin. It didn’t go so well. So, I wedged up a much smaller lump of clay, and threw a small closed form… and then a few more.

A week or two later, I trimmed a foot ring onto each of them, then pressed grooves into the sides and twisted up the stems. My pumpkins were born!

I cut open the tops, and carved faces into them when they were leather-hard, then underglazed them in a few different shades of orange.

I fell in love with the end product.

I only made 5 of these little babies. (The happy one makes me giggle.) Three had carved faces, and two stayed whole. (Those two made excellent candy dishes!) A few of them went to live with my mom and step mom and a couple stayed with me. I had several requests for them, so next fall, I’ll have to make a few to sell.