Nanagama unloaded!

We unloaded the Nanagama at MHCC today. The firing went really well, and we all had high hopes, but were somewhat unsure how successful our reduction cooling was. Turns out it was absolutely perfect! Every piece that came out of the kiln today was stunning! We got amazing color. Most of us used groggy, iron-rich clay bodies so our pieces came out really rich, with great flashing.

The firing was interesting from the start. We tumble-stacked most of the kiln. We only put two shelves in the back, at 22″ or so. Above and below that, pieces were stacked on top of each other. In the front we had a few more layers of shelves, but still some tumble-stacking. Then we put a narrow stack of shelves in the firebox, with a few pieces on either side, so our firebox was about half-size. Didn’t seem to cause any trouble stoking, other than requiring a little extra care when tossing wood in. The kiln was tightly packed, but we lifted the lowest shelf almost 5 inches and only placed a few items under it, so we had plenty of airflow to the back of the kiln.

The firing went smoothly–candled overnight, ramped up about 100 degrees each hour until we hit 2100 in the back. Then we held between 2000 and 2100 for about 8 hours. About 48 hours after lighting the fire, we gave it one big push, to hit cone 10 and melt the ash in the front. Then we partly sealed the kiln and gave the back three big stokes. We sealed it the rest of the way, and slowly reduce-cooled over about 8 hours, feeding it just a few sticks every 10-15 minutes until it reached about 1600.

We must have hit just the right cycle of reduction and oxidation, because our pieces, as I said at the beginning, came out beautifully. I think it may have been the best firing yet, in terms of consistency of results.

If you’d like to see for yourself, stop by the Studio next Friday evening (July 3). It’s First Friday in the Central Eastside business district and I’ll be in the studio from 6-9pm. Maybe if you’re lucky there will be beer…

Also, check out my contact page for my studio calendar. It shows when I’ll be there in case you want to stop by some other time. Please let me know ahead of time so I know to expect you.


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What do you think?

I’m really interested to hear what other artists (and non-artists too) think about this:
The following has happened a couple of times in the last few months. I’ve taken pictures while hanging out with other people. Because I know that I’m really slow about posting pictures (they sometimes sit on my camera for months and months), I’ve just given people the photos directly–transferred them from my camera to their computers.
Then (this is the problem part) they’ve posted the pictures to Flickr, Facebook, etc. They are not jerks deliberately taking credit for my work. These are awesome friends who are excited about showing other people the fun stuff we did together, which is great! And the photos, for the most part, are not artsy, they are vacation-type photos.

But some of the photos were taken with some amount of artistic intent. As an artist, it is important to me that I get credit for my work. My success depends on people recognizing my abilities, so when my work is out in the world and people are appreciating it, I want them to appreciate the fact that I made it.

In my mind, the proper thing for these people to do is ask me if it’s ok to post the photos, then give me credit. When I want to use someone’s photos, I ask permission then add a tag, copyright statement, etc. If I can, I link to their website. I benefit from the images, they benefit from the publicity.
So maybe I just need to be more clear about my expectations when I share photos with friends–ask people to give me credit if they post the photos online. Or maybe I need to be more on-the-ball about posting them myself and not hand over the files at all. By giving people a batch of files, am I implicitly giving them the right to do whatever they want with the images? Is this just an unavoidable part of digital photography and social software?I’d like to know if anyone else has had a similar experience and if you have any thoughts about it.

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Before and after

On Saturday, Lisa and I moved into our new studio. It’s so nice! We painted two walls a beautiful teal color, and decked it out with lights and shelves from Ikea. Still need to build a couple of work tables, hang some pictures and take in some finished pieces from home, but otherwise its ready to go!

It’s so great to have my own space. Even though it doesn’t have any windows, it feels really bright with the colored walls. I have about 4x the shelf space (that’s my old space above), an area to sit and relax, room to put artwork on the walls (including this print I bought the other day at Crafty Wonderland).

Of course I have yet to use the studio for anything other than putting together shelves and cleaning up paint…I spent all weekend there and did no clay work. But hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time to do some pottery, and by the end of this weekend I’ll be working at my new work tables.

I’d like to invite everyone to our studio-warming party! It will be Friday, June 5, from 6pm-9pm (or later). This coincides with First Friday, so please explore all the great art galleries and artist spaces in the Central Eastside arts district, but be sure to stop by Radius (#14 on the map) and come downstairs to our new space! We will have some items for sale, but this is primarily a chance for us to show off our new space and visit with our friends. Hope to see you!

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Question answered

I started writing this as an email in response to a friend’s question, but it turned into something that looked more like a post than an email, so here it is. He asked if I’ve found that common aesthetic I was talking about in my first post.

I guess it’s complicated. My hand-built things are definitely, unmistakably mine. Even when I make non-footed things (I just made some pinch pots with weird rocket-fin legs that I like an awful lot) they have that same round, pinched, lumpy thing going. And a certain stockiness that I really like. Which is weird, since I’m not stocky at all, and I think people tend to mostly create self-portraits when they’re doing humanoid forms. Stylized or idealized, but still self-portraits. Like people say that authors always write autobiographies even when they’re writing fiction. So anyway, yes, there is definitely a sense of “me” in my handbuilding.

Thrown forms though, I’m not so sure. There are certainly common elements in my work. The way everything is always very tight and controlled. The roundness (spherical-ness) of everything. The curve at the tip of my spouts and curve at the top of my bottles are similar proportions.

One thing that really bugs me though is when people just have one thing they do. Like at showcase, the one person makes the gargoyle heads, the other person makes those polka-dot fish on strings. I really like both of those people’s work, but they just keep doing the same things for years, no variety. I don’t want to be the chick that makes the vases with the feet. I want to continue to have variety in my work, while maintaining a sense of myself in, so people say, “Oh, did Amy make that?”

I also want to avoid making nothing but functional things. Not that there’s anything wrong with making functional things, it’s just not what I want from my own work. Guess I’ve always (since I was a small child) seen myself as an artist. I’ve experimented with a lot of different media, and clay is the one that stuck (for now), but I feel like I need to get back to the “art” side of the art v. craft line. And to me that line is about intent and message. Art has a message beyond the object. A mug can be a piece of art if it has something to say other than just “drink coffee from me.” A painting can be non-art if all it does is go with your couch. Gross oversimplification, but hopefully you see my point. I want my work to mean something to me when I’m making it, and hopefully to say something to people who view it. Something more than “I’m a little teapot…”

I feel good about the concept I’m working on now. I hope I can find the time to finish it before I lose momentum. Need to go to Georgies on Saturday…

PS: Good news! Lisa ( and I are getting a studio in June! More room to spread out–yay! And did you notice that I finally opened an etsy shop? Only two items in it so far. Baby steps.

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Woodfire — kiln opening

We opened the kiln yesterday. The variety of work that came out was really spectacular.

During the firing we knew that we weren’t getting as hot in the back as we had hoped, but the front was plenty hot. We used a combination of hardwood (maple and alder) and fir. The fir was slightly wet. The wet wood gave us a really interesting reptile-skin effect on many of the pieces, especially in the front. We got a lot of color and iridescence–almost too much on some pieces. People commented that they got some of their best work ever out of the front of the kiln.

The back was another story. In some areas of the back, the temperature was so low that glazes didn’t mature and ash did not completely melt onto some pieces. So some will need to be re-fired. But others in the back came out really well.

As we were unloading, my pieces looked really great. I got some great flashing (flame patterns), lots of color, no major problems. But when I unpacked this morning, I was surprised. Usually pieces grow on you after a while. Jay says they look better the farther they get from the kiln. But when I unpacked my boxes I started feeling like there was an awful lot of apricot-colored stuff. I ended up liking the darker pieces (Santiam and Cannon Beach clay) better than the lighter clays (Umpqua and Deschutes) that I thought would be better for the kiln. Some I still like a lot, but others I’m less sure about.

The photos here are two of my favorites–and a good example of the difference between lighter and darker clay, and the front vs the back of the kiln (the darker teapot is Santiam at the front of the kiln, while the more peachy teapot is Deschutes White from farther back).

Jay is planning to fire again in August and I hope to be invited back. I’ll probably re-fire a few pieces then. Might put a couple in the MHCC Nanagama this June too and see how they change. Remind me to write more about that–we’re going to harvest wood next weekend. I’m so happy to have done the firing at Jay’s before that trip–I’ll know much more about what we’re doing!

Stay tuned, I’ll update the gallery soon with some newer pieces, and I’m working on opening at Etsy shop!

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