Lessons from my clay addiction...

I freely admit I'm addicted to clay. If I could be in the studio every day simply creating that is where I'd be. However, I have other things that call and that I love, like my family. The things I could easily give up include having to apply to shows, setting up shows, marketing my art, and selling my art (although I do love the interaction with people and friends....and I like to write which comes under the "marketing" portion of that grouping).

One of the pieces that didn't work in the spot with the commission grouping I made. I re-glazed it afterward, adding more blues.

This blog isn't about whining or my addiction though, it's about the lessons I learn continually from my happy clay addiction.

Lately I have been trying to do commissions. Someone I have grown to love pushed me a bit and dragged me into attempting something that had frustrated me before. She gave me total freedom to do what I wanted to fill some spaces for her. I admit, it was still a bit of a challenge but I was happy with the result and I believe she has been, too.

I had already learned from trying in the past that if I am tasked with doing something specific in the studio I can procrastinate until the world ends. I still have a woman who asks me about a piece she wanted me to make...ten years ago. Yep, I am horrible. I have the best of intentions, I go to the studio to make it and my mind balks.

However, after my successful commission last year I thought I'd finally come up with the formula to get past my stubborn "not gonna do it" streak. I think it must go back to my childhood foot stomping "you can't make me" days.

One of the bowls I made for the commission...then realized I'd gotten things wrong. But I love this basket!

The solution my friend helped me discover was no boundaries, make what I wanted without constraints. I would make three pieces, she would choose.

I grew bold once I completed her pieces. I accepted a commission at a Fall show, gave the new guidelines: I get to make three pieces, they'll fit in your space, you choose the one you like and I'll sell the rest. Or, don't choose any and I'll sell them.all and I'll come up with more choices ---- or not if you're over it (ha ha).

The next show someone came in, fell in love with a piece, but didn't like the wood it was sitting on. Permanently sitting on. They wanted me to make another similar piece, ship it to them in California.

No problem. I have conquered my commission aversion and I'm on it.

Except I'm not.

It hangs over my head like a big boulder. I go to the studio to work on the pieces and that is not, not, not what I want to do. Nope, you can't make me.

Except it looms. It glooms. It is like a nagging ghost that prods and taunts as I try to do something else. It squelches my creativity. So I try to do the smart thing and make the pieces. But there's no creative juice behind it. It is now a chore, something I HAVE to do.

It's been months and I'm still wrestling with those lingering commissions. So far they've all been patient.

Over the years I've learned a lot about myself as I work at my chosen profession, my passion. Some of them good, some of them not-so-good.:

I am the eternal optimist. Every show is going to be the best ever.

I hate being boxed in (hence, stink at commissions, schedules, etc.)

I can't do commissions. Wait, that's not really a life lesson...the lesson is that I just need to accept that my creative process doesn't flow in that way. Under that same heading must come that making money just isn't a sufficient motivator. That's what would happen if I started doing commissions. At every show I get asked at least once to do a commission. I turned them down until the commission I did for my now friend.

I could list more lessons but we'd be moving into a therapy session territory!

Bottom line, and last lesson --- First, I have learned when to quit, give up, accept who I am. So, no more commissions after I finish these.

Hah, I just thought of another thing I've learned over the years about myself...even when I think I've learned the lesson, put a lid on it, corked up the issue and tossed the bottle into the ocean...I will sometimes find that floating bottle and try again thinking I've reformed, changed, figured out how to conquer, blah blah blah.

It's quite possible you'll see another blog someday where I once again talk about trying to do commissions. Eternal optimist, crazy or somewhere in the middle.


Source: http://www.janetmcgregordunn.com/blog/


This past week or so I have been doing a bit of experimenting with the glazing of a number of my pieces. I usually glaze fire at least two times, sometimes three or four. I have a number of pieces that I wasn't 100% happy with for a variety of reasons. I decided to get adventurous and re-glaze a bunch of them.

Keep in mind, most of them have already been glaze fired three times. I took one red piece and added metallic colors and a black raised glaze. I added a light blue or light jade underglaze to a black basket, then wiped off the excess. I added bright blue underglaze to a green piece.

One blue basket had a tiny chip on the base. I sanded it down and decided to add some green to it.

I took a set of four that I thought had a bit too much blue and glazed each one completely different, breaking up the set.

The kiln is cooling so I'll be able to pull some out and take photos, will add a slide show below when I have all of them fired. I have another load to fire once I empty this load.

Source: http://www.janetmcgregordunn.com/


My wonderful cousin, Steve Boykin, helps me clean up the mess. This is the tail end, most has already been loaded in the truck or tossed.

My wonderful cousin, Steve Boykin, helps me clean up the mess. This is the tail end, most has already been loaded in the truck or tossed.

I was one of many who got hit by the storm in Fairhope this past weekend. I was very lucky in that I had not put out my pottery yet. I lost my tent, some shelving (repairable), my show fees, gas, hotel, and any money I might have made from sales. But I didn't get hurt and my ceramic art survived intact in my vehicle.

I am grateful for those positives. Many of my fellow artists lost much more. A few tents down the ladies lost most of their large pieces of pottery.

I am even more grateful to the community of Fairhope, the Eastern Shore Art organization and a HUGE number of fellow artists. I have been humbled by the number of artists, some who only know me through Facebook, who've offered to loan tents, give tents, help me fix things.

During the storm, as I was trying to make heads or tales of the destruction, I was so appreciative for all the total strangers who stopped by on their way home from dinner or drinks to ask if they could help in any way. One person came by and handed out free dry shirts. Others stopped to see if they could help load up, clean up, go get something. What a wonderful community!

The volunteers and organizers were out in force trying to help. Everyone was so understanding and helpful.

I also appreciate my amazing cousin, Steve Boykin. He was next to me at the show and all of his paintings got soaked and/or hit the ground. He not only packed up his own mess but he helped me with mine.

I am taking a break from repairing and repainting things to write this. In the scheme of things I have minimal damage. It'll just take time and some dollars to be back on track. I already have a new tent, stabilizer bars are winging their way to my doorstep along with some other upgrades.

I'll be in Ridgeland, Mississippi for a show weekend after next, then will be in a show in Villa Rica, then on to Sandy Springs for the Artsapalooza. A few weeks after that I'll be hosting my Annual Spring Open Studio here at ceramics central.


Source: http://www.janetmcgregordunn.com/

Creative sparks

I've always found the creative process to be fascinating. Not just the "doing" of creativity, but the beginnings, the process of going from thought to action--- all that occurs in the brain. Everyone who creates, whether it is art, food, a spread sheet, a job proposal, or a mess, goes through some steps in their brain. Most of us just do it on automatic and never think about it.

My little brain just pings all the time. I have my "bam" moments and my slow cookers. I can see a stick in the woods and it'll set my mind to racing toward a new piece of pottery or wake up from a dream where I've been building something and know I have to play. I often spend days and weeks tussling with a project I want to start...but will know it's not quite jelled. When I get it, I have to get to it or I am like that kid kicking the wall waiting for everyone to wake up so they can get to Disney.

I woke up this morning and before I got out of bed had a "eureka moment" regarding a pot I've been playing with in my head.

Last week our local Friends of the Library had one of their book sales. People donate used books, they in turn sell them to help fund things for the library. I'm a readaholic. I usually have to have help carrying all my books out to the vehicle.

I always check out the craft section to see if they have anything on ceramics. It's rare to find something but I have picked up some treasures. This time there was a thin hardback titled "Clay Hand Building". I didn't even look through it, just saw 'clay' and grabbed it. Turns out it was written back in 1979. There wasn't anything in it that I didn't already know but the photos (all in black and white) of the pieces were fun to view. Well worth a dollar!

One of the pots pictured in the book, a little slab pot, maybe 4 inches caught my attention and sparked an idea. My piece will look nothing at all like the one I saw in the book. It will be very large, different shape, different textures. But the concept sprung from looking at the picture. [When I get through with my piece I'll do an update on this blog, show you both pieces. ]

I have carried that idea in my head for days. Thinking about how I'm going to do it has put me to sleep a few nights. It has traveled with me as I've driven to the store. It has popped up as I was brushing my teeth. I've moved it around, added to it, tried various clay combos...all in my mind.

This morning I woke up thinking about the shape. And had my eureka moment while playing with a variety of shapes. It is going to be a two-piece creation. I am going to use two types of clay. I am going to add some sand or maybe grog to some of the clay.

Today is the day it will move from my mind to the real world.

I will try to remember to stop at times and take photos. I think this one is going to take more than one day.

Oh, and, while I was thinking about the new pot this morning after I got up I had another idea for a series if this works out.

I'm off to the studio. As a special treat I'll be opening a glaze load a bit later. Icing on the creation cake!

Source: http://www.janetmcgregordunn.com/

Experimenting again.

I picked up some stains that belonged to a potter who passed away a few days ago. I only grabbed six as many were in colors I wouldn't use. 

Today I started experimenting with them.

It has been many years since I mixed my own glazes or took any classes or workshops on glazes. I only have a vague memory of anything to do with stains. I spent the past few days reading about stains on-line and in some of my reference books, trying to (re)familiarize myself with all the ways they could be used.

Ha. Most of the materials I read "assumed" a lot. I gleaned enough to know I needed to do some testing before I started plastering any stain concoctions on my favorite piece of pottery!

Two dishes sacrificed for the cause...I didn't like them anyway. They have been sitting on a shelf waiting to either be broken up or moved to my pottery garden.

Two dishes sacrificed for the cause...I didn't like them anyway. They have been sitting on a shelf waiting to either be broken up or moved to my pottery garden.

Here's what I tried:

  • mixed with water, thin, brushed it on biqued clay
  • added a bit of white clay to the mix and brushed it on biqued clay
  • covered an area with white glaze, let it dry and then brushed the clay/stain mix over the top
  • brushed the clay/stain mix under a sand colored glaze
  • brushed the clay/stain mix over a sand colored glaze
  • mixed some of the stain with white/buff clay

I'm going to low fire it. I will be doing the same with mid-fire and high-fire clay. I just didn't happen to have any bisqued pieces in the right range I was willing to sacrifice for the cause.

It's all drying right now. I have a small bisque kiln load going. Tomorrow when I unload it I'll pop the stain experiment in and see how it goes.

It is rather interesting. I noted that some of the containers were dated 1968. I'm not sure how true the colors will be, have no idea what the shelf life of stains might be. I also wonder if some of them are now on the toxic list. I'm going to write down the names and do a bit of research.


I've been doing some additional research. All that follows probably falls under the TMI rule, but I think it is interesting.

I have some Drakenfeld (4) and Pemco colors (2).

I found a Drakenfeld link that took me to the EPA site, an issue with contamination I gather (I just skimmed). Here's some background on the company though:

The Ferro facility is located on a 12-acre triangular piece of land in Canton Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  The facility was purchased in 1946 by Drakenfeld and Company, who produced glass enamels, glass oxides, and clayware colors.  These products have remained the primary focus of the facility ever since. Powder pigments are currently sold to the plastics and vinyl siding industries, pastes are sold to the automotive and architectural industries for glass decorations, and "Drakotherms" are also produced.  These consist of solids at room temperature that are used to decorate bottles and glassware, liquid precious metals that are used to decorate fine china, and organic products (solids, liquids or pastes) that are used in a variety of applications.

In 1966, Hercules, Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware, purchased Drakenfeld Company, and all Drakenfeld operations were consolidated at the West Wylie Avenue facility. The company was later bought by Ciba-Geigy Corporation in 1979 and filed the initial Notification of Hazardous Waste Activity to USEPA in August 1980 under this name. In 1993, Drakenfeld and the Ceramic Colors and Special Products Division of Degussa were incorporated as a joint venture firm with Cerdec Corporation Drakenfeld Products as the U.S. subsidiary of Cerdec AG with worldwide headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. The facility submitted another revised Notification of Hazardous Waste Activity to USEPA in October 2000 to reflect a change in name and ownership (in 1999) to DMC2 Degussa Metals Catalysts Cerdec Corporation. The facility changed its name to Ferro Glass and Color Corporation when Ferro Corporation (Ferro) purchased DMC2 in September 2001. Currently, the Washington, PA facility is an international manufacturer and distributor of glass coatings, frits, ceramic stains, and pigments for the glass, ceramic, paint, plastic and coating industries. It produces approximately 11,000,000 pounds per year of product.


Then I found an info sheet at Minnesota Clay. It said the Drakenfeld's didn't do well just mixed with water, might flake off, other issues. Guess I'll find out when I fire my sample dishes.

    My new website

    I think I'm getting close to being finished with my new website. I'd love your input, comments, suggestions!

    I'm still debating on whether to add a store and/or add prices. I have visited a bazillion and one websites, read blogs and articles by those "in the know" and there are good reasons to add and not add both.

    I don't think my kind of ceramics sells very well via the Internet. You can't see all the colors.  I often have layers and layers of colors that you can only see as you turn the piece or the light hits an area. It's hard to visualize the size of the pieces even when I put the measurements (which I will be adding).

    I think my website is mainly there to show the type and scope of my art and to steer people to the galleries, shows and events where it can be touched.

    Love your thoughts on all of the above also!

    Let it grow, let it grow...can't hold you back any more...

    I've heard "Let it Go" so many times I had a hard time playing on the song for my blog post, but it works so I let it go... (yes, I heard you groan)

    Yesterday I shared that I was working on a 5-piece set. I was going to finish the last part of it that day then start working on a new basket.

    Sometimes things don't go the way I plan.

    The new creation was originally intended to be a 3-part set. When I finished the first very tall piece I also wanted to make one that was even taller. First though I made a second smaller tube. Then I made a smaller one, somewhat because I was getting tired. It's time consuming and can be a bit tedious building, drying, building, drying. I wasn't feelin' it. I decided to forget doing a taller tube --- how in the world would I ever transport it to shows? It would be so fragile that I would only be able to put it in a gallery --- one with a tall shelf, not easily bumped.

    When I finished the 3 pieces I looked at them and realized I needed a fourth for visual balance. I made the fourth piece and walked back, looked at the set and realized it was going to need a fifth piece. Hence the additional day. It was too late to get started on the last piece.

    Well...yesterday I made the 5th piece. Poifectamungo. Good balance, or so I told myself. A little voice kept whispering that it needed a sixth piece based on the height of the pieces. I ignored it.

    I took a break, ate a late lunch and let it be for a bit.

    I walked back in and knew I had to make a sixth piece or I wasn't going to be happy. Either way I wasn't going to be entirely happy --- I have a 'philosophical' (also silly) thing where I don't like making even sets. I like three, five, etc.

    However, I let it go.

    I was determined that I would finish up and start working on the basket that was calling to me.

    I made the sixth piece.

    I took a break and let them dry for a bit. I came back, used the blow dryer to make sure they were sturdy enough to put in the kiln to finish drying and then started loading them.

    Ha. Karma, balance, my inclination to go with things that I want to do without thinking about the practical aspects...whatever. The bottom line is that the two tallest pieces wouldn't fit in the kiln. I thought about calling some friends to see if they had taller kilns but knew I'd run into problems with the glaze firing also. Plus pieces are ultra fragile until they are bisque fired. The transporting would be delicate.

    Sigh. Time to make some height adjustments. And create a seventh piece! I was able to take the top off the tallest nicely enough to be able to add a new bottom and create my 7th piece. Marrying up totally dry clay with wet clay is an interesting topic...for another day and another blog. Maybe

    Balance, harmony, all is well in the kingdom of clay. Maybe I'll call the set "sisters" in honor of Anna and Elsa. Nah.

    New Year, New Works

    I've never been one to pick a line and go with it. I travel down one path until something else catches my attention as a rule. However, sometimes I do one thing one day and another the next. I'll see a photo of a basket or see a shape in nature or see a beautiful textile work and my mind moves to clay and my hand reaches for my idea book.

    Twisting the Night Away

    In recent months I've been caught up with two veins of work: baskets and sun catchers.

    I started on baskets a while back. I made a few small ones then they started growing. And growing. I added driftwood handles. I added other additions. I have a stack of driftwood on the front porch of my studio that is calling to me, telling me it wants to be used. One in particular keeps nagging at me. Today I am going to finally make a basket for the nagging piece.

    My sun catchers were also inspired by some of the driftwood. They started small and have grown to some pretty spectacular sizes...all as a result of the fun pieces of driftwood on my porch.

    When I went to my parents for Christmas they surprised me with a couple of buckets of driftwood they'd pulled from the lake. Lots of storms, lots of rain make for nice piles of driftwood along the edge of their lake-front property.

    The driftwood is all sizes. Some will be used to hang in the sun catchers. Some will be used as the hanger, others for basket handles. I am doing some shows in a few beachy areas this year so I plan to make some sea-worthy ceramic art. As I was looking at some of the smaller, weird looking pieces I thought they'd make nice tiny hangers for some wall pieces. There's one swirling piece that I am looking forward to doing something with in the near future.

    Tied to the Sea

    Watch for more baskets and sun catchers this year. In between both ideas that pop into my head will also be mixed in with those themes. Yesterday I started a 5-piece set that I'll share when I finish the 5th piece today before starting on the nagging driftwood piece. Once I use the nagging driftwood piece it will transition to a happy driftwood piece. We'll all forget how irritating that nagging was...

    I'm not sure if you can see the sun catcher very well in the photo to the right. If you click on it you can enlarge it. That's my studio sitting in the background. You might be able to see some of the driftwood piled on the front porch if you look closely. I also keep some in the pottery garden off to the left of the studio.

    Always something new...

    Pleased to share that I now have art in two new galleries: Decatur Fine Art Gallery in Decatur, GA and Arts Clayton in Jonesboro, GA.

    I love both galleries. Arts Clayton is not just a fabulous place to buy art --- they do a LOT to help promote the arts. They have workshops for children, reach out to the community to help with reading and art, help aspiring artists and more.

    Decatur Fine Art started up in August of 2015. It is chocked full of so some of the most wonderful art created by a group of stellar artists. I have loved being a part of this group.

    Both galleries hold many events that are open to the public. Decatur Fine Art has monthly events. Arts Clayton holds shows, open houses, parties and more.