Community Warehouse – Chair Affair

Over the past few years, I’ve been involved with a great non-profit here in Portland – Community Warehouse. They have an incredibly simple model – you give them your extra housewares and they give them to people who need them. Really, it’s that easy. Their clients are referred by social services agencies, so they don’t have to screen people and they have no waiting list. People who are transitioning from homelessness, shelters, hospitals, etc. can get the things they need to furnish their new homes. Often this means giving children beds to sleep in and bowls to eat from.  I’ve seen it in action – people bring stuff to the warehouse and folks in need take it home.

Community Warehouse has a big fundraising event each spring called the Chair Affair. I had the opportunity to go to the Chair Affair for the first time last year and had a fantastic time! A wide variety of local artists use chairs, tables and other items donated to the warehouse to create functional artwork and tablescapes which are auctioned off at the event.

That brings us to the purpose of this post – I’m doing a chair for this year’s auction!

I started with a well-loved wooden rocking chair with a cane seat and back and nice broad arms. Here’s a before photo. The paint (all three layers) was chipping and drippy. The caning was dirty and broken at the edges.

Here is a photo of the stripping and dismantling process. The top two layers of paint peeled right off with a heat-gun, but the bottom layer of dark green paint wasn’t going anywhere.

Once the stripping and sanding were done, I reassembled the chair, gave it a coat of strong primer, and painted it a fun new color!

The next step was replacing the cane seat and back. After exploring lots of options, I settled on Shaker tape. It appeared to be fairly easy to work with, comes in lots of colors, and gave me the look I was after (understated, traditional but not old-fashioned). Of course it was more complicated than it should have been. Shaker tape is hard to find and surprisingly expensive (it wouldn’t have been so bad for the seat of a small chair, but this one has a large seat and large back). The weaving process is basically pretty simple – you just go around and around front-to-back, turn the corner and weave through the first set of strips going side-to-side (weaving both the top and under-side of the seat). Here are the directions I followed. My wonderful mom helped, and we only made a couple false-starts before we had it figured out. Turning the corner ended up being the most difficult part, followed closely by getting the spacing right and weaving the final strips (where it’s tight against the wood of the chair). Keeping 75 yards of tape from getting twisted and tangled wasn’t terribly easy either. We did a pretty fine job!

That bit of green paint you see at the bottom is an experiment – I considered highlighting the knobs and spindle areas with green to pick up the green in the fabric, but once they were all painted I wasn’t crazy about the look. Green in the fabric? Yep, the chair isn’t done yet! Still to come: alien cushions! Plus I still have that green paint… not sure if that will end up on the chair or some other craft project.

If you’d like to see the finished project (and bid on it!), come to the Chair Affair on April 18th!

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Maryhill and Blueberries

I know, it’s been ages since you’ve heard from me!  Lots has happened in the past several months — new ideas, new firings, and lots of new pots!  Plus a new camera to better show them to you (I think it’s smarter than me).

First — let me invite you to come see them in person at Maryhill Arts Festival next weekend.

Next, I’m excited to show you the results of a new project!  My talented mother drew some beautiful botanical drawings for me to carve on pottery.  I fired them in Hiroshi Ogawa’s wood/soda kiln last month and they came out absolutely perfectly.  I’ll have lots of cups and beer steins at Maryhill next weekend and the vases will be displayed in White Salmon sometime in the next few months.

 The beer steins have hops on one side and barley on the other.  These are two of the least soda-hit of the batch — some have an amazing amount of soda-gloss and carbon-trapping.  They’re lovely, but the images got somewhat obscured on the most soda-covered.

I’m also excited about these batter bowls.  I like them for mixing up omelets and salad dressing, but the one on my counter is currently full of blueberries.

The beautiful dark brown clay of the blueberry bowl is another project I’m pretty excited about.  The clay and glaze are both based on clay that I dug locally.  I’m still working out the formula, (it doesn’t like to go past about cone 9-10 — at woodfire temperatures it has a tendency to bloat — that means it gets bubbly and lumpy looking), but when it gets what it wants, it’s beautifully rich and a tiny bit metallic. The blueberries are from the St. Johns Farmers’ Market and they’re every bit as good as they look!

 And a late addition — more blueberries (worried I might end up like Violet Beauregarde…).  I made this set of plates for myself, much to the annoyance of my mom who has been asking for a set of plates for ages. Plates are not my forte.  They’re no good in the cupboard (they stack terribly) but they’re just right for eating saucy french toast.


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Too early for swimming

Just a quick post to share this photo with you.  On a somewhat gloomy Saturday morning I took this pot to the park to take some photos — hoping for something more interesting than typical studio shots.  I ended up wading into the Willamette, freezing my toes for just the right shot.  I love this one.  It may not show every detail of the pot, but it really captures its spirit better than any perfectly-lit and back-dropped photo ever could.

Here’s another that made me happy:


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February is my favorite month.  In Oregon, it’s the beginning of early Spring.  Trees start to bloom, crocus and daffodils start poking up.  We usually get a week or so of beautiful, sunny weather.

Winters are hard here. Not physically — it rarely snows and only occasionally gets below freezing — but emotionally.  Between the clouds and the short days, we sometimes go weeks without seeing the sun.  In December and January, I leave the house in the dark, leave work in the dark, and often it’s too drizzly out to bother leaving the office at noon.   It starts to feel like winter will never end.

Then February arrives, and we get a week of glorious sunshine! People lace up their hiking boots and jump on their bikes. We brave the muddy forest trails and the cold that makes my nose run like a fountain. We take pictures of blooming things and post them to our facebook pages and blogs.

February is the real beginning of the year.  It’s time to start coming back to life. Time for spring cleaning and starting new projects.  Time for inspiration and list-making and big ideas that may or may not ever see the light of day.

Then March comes, with more rain, and it feels like January all over again, except that the days are a little longer and the rain a little less cold.


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Done! (for now)

I wrote this weeks ago and just realized that I never posted it.  Here you go, slightly out of date:

Done with the holiday sales season.  As you know, I spent yesterday at Crafty Underdog.  Sales were not great — less than my studio sale the previous weekend, which makes me wonder why I bothered packing and hauling all that stuff around.  But I met some nice people, especially my booth neighbors (Tara and Lyle).

Two years ago, I wrote a post On Selling.  Re-reading it now, my feelings haven’t changed, but I have more insight into what it takes to sell, what I ought to do and what I’m willing to do to make it happen.

I did two sales this winter, and currently have work in two stores.  I haven’t talked to Pistils since I dropped off my pots two weeks ago, but Lisa (Oko) consistently sells my hand built work — rocket planters and pots with feet.

She occasionally sells a cup or a teapot.  Sake sets never, ever sell.  She doesn’t sell them, I don’t sell them.  I love making them and I love the way they come out of the anagama (I fire them in place so each piece leaves shadows on the others and the fit together just-so).  People always admire them but never buy them.  They ask what they’re for, and I tell them sake, whiskey, anything you drink in small cups.  But who takes the time to pour their beverage into a new bottle before serving?

So…in 2012 I need to make some decisions and take action based on those decisions.  I can focus on making pots that will sell in the market I am currently serving (hand-built planters and footed things), or I can find a market for things that I really like to make (sake tasting rooms? tea shops?).  I’ve fallen into my current market with little effort, so actively pursuing other avenues for sales is scary and will take work. But if I want to move forward, I think it’s what must be done.

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