Tuesday, December 6, 2011

ongoing & upcoming fun at The Village

Every day, more and more things fall into place at The Village Potters, and you can really feel all the good energy from activities in the Gallery, to busy bee potters in studios, to classes that have started in The Teaching Center.

One of my classes includes Jo, who is returning to clay after a very long absence (I always say, the clay will wait for you!). And she's not just coming back after a long absence - when she arrived to class, she brought with her memories of having learned on an old, box-frame kick wheel (she's now on an electric), and having only ever worked on cylindrical forms that were finished on the wheel (I started her throwing off the mound).

But in spite of all that, she's making the transition back to clay smoothly and we're having a great time! It is one of the benefits of our classes running on an open enrollment - Jo was able to start when she was ready, after the Thanksgiving holiday, and because I have three other classes on the schedule, the class she has to miss next week will be easily made up with no loss in her momentum. Have I mentioned how much I love this Teaching Center?

In other Village news, we're having a Studio Holiday Sale this Sunday that's a real blow-out-end-of-year-extravaganza! All our Gallery work will be 20% off, plus I'll have other 'end of run' items specially priced in my studio area. I'll also be running a special promotion for my classes, whether you register then or buy a gift certificate. There are incredible gift options across the board, plus Johnny Harwood & friends jazzing up some holiday tunes and sweet refreshments to stoke your four-hour-shop-local-blitz!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Holiday Home Show!

Just a little reminder about the upcoming Holiday Home Show that I'll be doing with two other fabulous artists: jewelry designer Stephanie Onel and painter Susan Finer. Our gracious and generous host for the afternoon is Kristin Fellows, and our work will look even more beautiful in her lovely home!

We hope you can join us for an afternoon to celebrate the season, as well as the end of "Buy Local Week" - you'll find some great gift ideas whether you're shopping for others or for yourself (just as important!).

The deets:

When: Sunday, December 4 from 12:00 - 4:00pm
Where: Home of Kristin Fellows, 177 Lakeshore Drive, Asheville, NC 28804
Parking: please park on Shorewood as the drive is quite steep!
What: beautiful hand crafted pottery, stunningly designed jewelry, and sensory satisfying abstract paintings! Plus light refreshments and a whole lotta holiday cheer.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Fun & Frolic!

Already a week into November, yet the real fun only begins later this week! In a nutshell (well, as much of a nutshell as my rambling allows..):

10-Week Adult Clay Classes at The Village Potters
I've started taking student registrations for my beginner and beginning classes. My classes will be available on an open enrollment, meaning that although there are start/end times to each session, new students may start my classes at any time when space is available, and their 10 weeks will begin on the date they start. For class descriptions and fee/registration information, check out the website!

Studio Stroll at The Village Potters!
Saturday-Sunday, November 12-13, 10am-6pm
If you've been by to visit the new studios, gallery and teaching center, you should come by again this weekend and see how much has changed! More of us have moved in, we're putting in a special area for our featured artists and adding new works from Village Potters to the Gallery, and the Teaching Center is getting ready to be in full swing! We'll be open later on Friday night to welcome preview guests, and we'll have demo's in front over the weekend. As well, you'll be able to decorate your own holiday ornament and enter to win some fabulous door prizes that we'll be giving away the following weekend (see below).

The Village Potters Grand Opening Celebration!
Saturday, November 19, 6-8pm
In a way, it feels like I've been celebrating every day since I moved into this fabulous new space with these incredible people, so it only makes sense that we needed to make a special event to share it with family and friends. We'll have live music, incredible edibles that include a chocolate fountain and nacho bar, fire dancing and the drawing for our door prizes: a beautiful piece of hand made pottery by each of the Village Potters. If you can't make it for Stroll weekend (or even if you do!), I hope you can make it to this great celebration!

And I know it's sneaking into December, but it's less than 30 days away and as much a part of my November madness as anything:

Holiday Home Show!
Sunday, December 4, from 12-4pm
Did you know that November 25-December 4 is National Buy Local Week? More like a week plus a day or two, but I'm not quibbling, as pretty much every day is Buy Local for me so I'm always glad to see a broader acknowledgement!
I'm thrilled to once again join talented jewelry designer Stephanie Onel in an intimate, warm setting to showcase our work. We'll be at the beautiful home of Kristin Fellows in north Asheville for a festive afternoon of a little nosh, a little bevvie, a lot of laughs and some pretty darn good jewelry and pottery! I'll have some specially packaged gifts that are perfect for teachers, office or host-giving among my offerings. Check our Facebook event page for details, or email me if you need directions.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Into The Village!

This falls into the category of 'everything I'd wished for, but way more than I'd hoped for'. If there's anyone who didn't hear about it, I have now officially moved into The Village Potters to become one of the Resident Artists as well as an instructor in their (our!) Teaching Center. Yay!!

Honestly, I've been so lax in blogging lately, and the last year has been so very, very ... well it's just too much to try and whittle down into a paragraph, so why not let's just pick up our story with Lori happily and excitedly accepting the offer to join The Village. The first phase of moving was a delight; with the help of some good friends with a parade of hand trucks and dollies, we moved my 'mini' studio set up that was in another part of the building over to the other side, down the dark elevator and into the new space. There's more studio to re-discover from my storage unit, much of which will be used in the Teaching Center, but that waits till after my next firing. I'll fire off-site once again, as it will be a month or two before we get the kiln installed here, and then I'll be all in one place and with a most excellent group of artists and mentors!

my new studio space, before phase one of the move-in

Phase One - ready to work, with some favorite studio juju in place

I am beyond pleased and excited to be joining my fellow Village Potters Judi Harwood, Cat Jarosz, Melanie Mitchell Robertson, and Sarah Wells Rolland. I'm already cherishing the friendships that are developing, and I can tell you right now, the artistic relationships will have a tremendous impact on my work in the very best way (ie, they're gonna kick my butt). Case in point: among my first tasks is to start building a portfolio for application to the Southern Highlands Craft Guild.

The Gallery at The Village Potters

Right now, the Gallery is open (Mon-Sat, 10-6), and if you're in the area you can stop by and see the work of all five resident Village Potters, as well as that of other regional artists. I'll be in the gallery on Wednesdays, so come by and say hi if you can! We're going to take the next month or so to get everyone moved in, and to begin our first session at the Teaching Center. I'll be teaching classes for beginner and beginning potters, much like I did in my old studio. The classes will run in 10-week sessions - check out more details at the website.

And now a very special word about how one gets to a place like this. I've had tremendous support in all shapes and forms since I've embarked on this pottery kind of life, even as I've been out here 'on my own', and I hope I've always properly expressed my gratitude. When this opportunity came along, I knew I'd need help in making it happen. It's a lot easier to say that than actually do the asking, but ask I did, and I am humbled and honored by the support that has come in all forms, from encouraging words to monetary investments that are indeed making the difference in my joining The Village. So a very big thank you to my "Village", which stretches over years and across many regions. Those of you who have made that investment will start seeing updates here (why, here's one now!). The new website is under development, and that will include a special place of thanks to all who have made this possible. Anyone curious about that whole thing, here's the link to the original letter that went out. It's going to be pretty crazy over the next month or two as we all get settled in, but I hope to keep updates here much more frequently.

And if you're in the area, please come by and check out the new studios, gallery and teaching center. Give me a heads up and I'll give you the tour! And please come celebrate with us as we host our Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, November 19 from 6-8pm. We'll be open our regular hours that day, but at 6 we'll put on the party music, bring out some nosh, and word is there may even be some fire dancing! I hope you can come join the festivities at The Village!

Monday, August 8, 2011

and we begin again...

Today was the first day back in the studio since the last firing almost a week ago. In addition to the sorting of the kiln, packing orders to ship and making gallery and retail deliveries, I "allowed" myself the week to get caught up on things on the home 'do' list. My, how the week just flies by when you think you have all this 'extra' time that you're not in the studio!

new work on display at Grovewood Gallery

new sushi plates (also at Grovewood)

all these lovely oil bottles now at The Tree & Vine

the new 'olive tree' dipping bowls, also at Tree & Vine

votive holders with candle cups, for Sensibilities Day Spa (downtown)

So today was all about dealing with the state of the studio, which I left only partially cleaned after glazing and packing my pots for travel out to Marshall for the firing. My very kind studio mate, who's not even working in the studio right now, couldn't help but clean up a portion when she was there during my absence. That was extra motivation to get it all cleaned up!

Being the clever girl that I am, I tackled the kiln room that does not have a/c first, and got the floor washed and organized the shelves and glazes to go back in place. Happily, the studio itself has a/c, so cleaning the floor, shelves, bats and tools was not terribly unpleasant. It actually gets me very motivated to get back on the wheel - kind of like getting my 'mis-en-place' before cooking a meal.

I left my camera at home, but once I get into production I'll include a shot of the momentarily clean studio along with the ambitious 'do' list I've started for the next 4-6 weeks of production.

For now, as I ponder going back to the studio tonight to begin the clay prep, I pause to ponder coconut milk ice cream with fresh, local peaches and fig-infused balsamic vinegar. Oh and maybe some basil ... and then maybe I'll ponder the tumbleweeds of dog hair that keep wafting by me. But first ...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

deep thoughts from the firing...

Actually more of a musing. As I look forward to opening the kiln tomorrow, I think back to the waning moments of last night's firing.

Having pushed into reduction a little early and slowing down my early pace, it was a bit later than I had hoped as I waited for the last cone to drop. Maybe it was being in the warmer clime all day, maybe it was the pace of the week leading up the firing finally catching up to me, but all sorts of strange things float through one's mind at these times.

I do believe, that at some point while waiting for cone 10 to just move-already-is-that-too-much-to-ask on the bottom shelf, I may have solved the debt crisis and perhaps come up with at least three solutions for various world conflicts. But just as those lucid moments of a really interesting dream seem to fade away as I open my eyes in the morning, so too did these profound discoveries when I finally pulled the peep and saw enough of a bend in that last cone. What was it I was just thinking? Who cares, the cone is bent! That may not remove the debt crisis, but it sure removed the final obstacle between me and a cool pale ale at home.

So those big secrets are still locked in the far corners of my mind, but I do believe there will be many fine discoveries when I open the kiln tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

in the works

My, but time flies when you say to yourself "I'll post some new stuff as soon as I finish ....". Well that's not going to happen, and while I'm grateful that a new goal is always dropping in front of me, I need get back to enjoying the process instead of fretting the finish.

I admit, the procrastination on writing has also been based in a slight sense of insecurity. Not me personally, I'm all good, but in the studio - just getting back into a dedicated work space after months of floating about, I've taken most of the last month getting back into a rhythm in the studio. And still heavily depending on using other people's equipment for much of my work (for which I am extremely grateful), I feel like I need to work fast and furious to get as much done as I can in each cycle, and of course nothing seems to happen fast enough. I've let those things I can't control become the focus, instead of rocking those things I do control, and that's just not as much fun so let's try not to do that too much, shall we?

Since I'm rediscovering the joy in the process, here are a few process shots of what's cookin' in the studio. Firing in about week, and my next exploration of process after I unload will be trying to get some decent pictures of the finished work!

always more mugs to carve

a new set for The Tree & Vine: olive oil dipping
bowl set inside an olive 'moat'

oil & vinegar bottles for The Tree & Vine

part development of a new form, part fun for Lori.
slab platter with a splash of sgrafitto tree

small plates that splashed out of the same idea as the platter

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Home Free Bagels

Home Free Bagels is a locally made bagel business that provides employment to Asheville's homeless population.  HFB is operating on behalf of the Asheville Homeless Network and aims to provide NYC-quality bagels to customers that are committed to supporting the local economy both through buying locally made products and employing city residents that would otherwise have great difficulty finding jobs.  Home Free Bagels is contributing to increased employment opportunities for people experiencing homelessness by providing fresh, delicious, locally made bagels to coffee shops and cafes, gourmet grocers and independently owned restaurants in Asheville, NC.  All profits go toward ending homelessness in Asheville. 

You can now find Home Free Bagels at more locations in and around Asheville, and every month you can meet them in person at the 2nd Saturday Artist Market in east-West Asheville.  This Saturday, May 14, you can also purchase their new t-shirt and support their efforts to secure a retail store front!

soon to be on a t-shirt near you!
Home Free Bagels is good for Asheville - it's social entrepreneurship that shows you can have a profitable business and work to solve community challenges.  And it's not just benefitting the homeless issue or HFB themselves, it's good for the businesses who support them as well!  
Chris Sullivan of Home Free Bagels, along with some of the bagel crew
This will be the first in a series of mini-interviews with some of those businesses who sell Home Free Bagels.  By visiting and supporting these businesses, you may discover yet another great local business you didn't know about before, and you're not only keeping your dollars working in Asheville, but working toward ending homelessness. Go get a tasty bagel and read on!

Firestorm Cafe & Books was an early supporter of Home Free Bagels.  Worker/Owner Libertie Valance was kind enough to speak informally on the topic of Home Free Bagels.  Drop by the shop and talk with anyone behind the counter if you'd like to learn more!

About our business
Firestorm Cafe & Books is a worker-owned and self-managed business in downtown Asheville that aims to provide community space, critical literature and an alternative economic model based on cooperative, libertarian principles. We have twelve collective members and operate democratically, welcoming an extremely diverse cross-section of the community.

How we heard about Home Free Bagels & why we support them
We've been working with the Asheville Homeless Network since mid-2009 when they moved their regular meetings to our cafe.
As a downtown organization committed to challenging class and privilege, we want to provide an environment welcoming to people regardless of their housing status while acting as allies to grassroots community advocacy organizations. When Chris Sullivan first floated the idea of setting up a business to employ and empower homeless folks, we were really excited! And to our surprise, it came together remarkably fast.

Impact of Home Free Bagels on our business
Like other cafes, we'd been sourcing our bagels from Bruegger's, the only game in town following the closure of NY Bagels on Merrimon Ave. Despite a higher per-unit cost, moving our business to Home Free Bagels was a no-brainer. In addition to offering a business model informed by social justice and community empowerment, Home Free Bagels demonstrated early on that they could make a better product while providing superior service, including free delivery.

We knew that the community would like Home Free Bagels, but we've been overwhelmed by the response. For the first couple weeks, we kept running out. Our bagel sales increased by more than 30% overnight!

Favorite way to eat Home Free Bagels
We serve a variety of bagel sandwiches but my personal favorite is our Portobello Bagel which combines homemade, spiced black bean spread with grilled mushrooms, thin sliced red onion and wilted spinach. And for variety, I sometimes like to substitute grilled tempeh, sourced from local producers at Smiling Hara Tempeh, for those mushrooms. Ridiculously delicious!

Firestorm Cafe is located at 48 Commerce Street, downtown Asheville.  They're open Monday - Friday, 7:30am - 10:30pm and Saturday from 10:00am - 10:00pm.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

'God couldn't be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.' (Jewish proverb)

You can go back to my March 29 post to see a more recent picture of my beautiful mom, but for today I wanted to use one of my favorites from when she was just a bit younger.  My 'picture of a picture' doesn't do it justice, but I think her beauty and spirit shine through with crystal clarity.

Happy Mother's Day Mom!  I love you! xoxo

Sunday, April 17, 2011

pulling lovelies and lessons out of the kiln

So let's talk about flux. 

There's one definition, 'a continued flow', that can be very appealing.   And then there's being in a state of flux, which means 'being in a state of uncertainty of what to do next'.  You'd think the two wouldn't exist simultaneously, but you're wrong!

Since early after the new year started, I've been trying to maintain the first definition.  No longer in my own studio, I'm working out of a community studio which brings great camaraderie with other ceramic artists, yet also brings the challenges of working within allotted times and staying within an allotted space.  Even so, I've been maintaining a pretty good flow of building work up for my first full kiln firing since last fall.

carved work out of bisque
Meanwhile, there's the ongoing question of where I will ultimately land in my own studio, if it will include a reduction kiln on site, if it will be in town, out of town or perhaps in another galaxy all together.  That kind of duality in ongoing thought gets to be a lot, even for a Gemini, so for the past month or two I've been focused solely on creating work for this recent firing, and satisfying commission and gallery orders so I could then move on to building an inventory over the rest of the summer.

lining up new work for glazing
testing a new form and graphic, lizella slip on white stoneware
So now it's time to fire, and in preparation I mixed up new batches of my glazes, and actually maintained a steady schedule of mixing, decorating and glazing that had everything glazed and packed for the firing a whole three days before the load!  

ipod in and away we go...
It was nice to not feel rushed through the brush work, and to give everything time to dry before being packed up. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to fire a lovely reduction kiln, and we had beautiful weather for the load and firing.  Given the whirl of activity leading up to the firing, the actual day of was almost like a vacation day, enjoying the sun, watching the birds circle at dusk, even saw some bats!
kiln door, near the end of the firing
A few days later comes the much anticipated unload, and here's where we get to introduce yet another version of flux.  Flux is an element of every ceramic glaze.  Silica is the main glass former, but will not melt at the temperatures used in these firings, so a flux agent is introduced to lower the melt point and allow the glazes to melt (I am not a glaze expert, as the results of this kiln will support, but this info is integral to the rest of this tale).  

So the kiln is opened, and there was a wide range of results.  The celadon glaze I use on the carved tree series acted a bit differently, but was for the most part as expected and with some thinness in the application, brought some interesting results where it broke on the rims.  

carved tree plate

more family trees
The tenmoku glaze that I used more sparingly than I wish I had in retrospect, was juicier than it's ever been, and I can't wait to do more in the next firing.  

juicy glaze!
And then there's my old stand-by, my go-to glaze combo of a kaki glaze with clear over wax brush work.  The variations have always been interesting and welcome, depending on how thick the cover glaze is applied and how long I can wait between each step to get the best resist on the wax.  

this is your pot with flux...
What I found, unfortunately, was that the cover glaze apparently did not flux, so it did not melt.  In fact, it even blistered in some spots.  

these are your pots without flux
There's that first moment, where I thought 'now this is a new variation', but much like that feeling you get when you realize 'no, this is where I parked my car and it's not here!', I slowly realized that 'no, this is not good.'  This is another of those dual-flux moments.  Things are moving - pots unloaded need to go on to fulfill orders and fill inventory, and yet you can't help but pause and wonder just where to go from here.

Because this is my go-to glaze, it was at least half the kiln.  Looking back at my mixing notes, it's impossible to see where it went wrong.  Perhaps it was when I had to stop mid-mix to run out for more materials, perhaps I stuck my scoop into the wrong bin or read the wrong line of ingredient amount.   
For now I'm focused on the parts that worked, sorting work for galleries and any orders that can be satisfied.  Taking these quick shots and prepping to shoot better images for some hopeful show applications for later in the summer.  Several orders are now back on the 'do' list, and after a quick family visit next week, I'll be working to get back into the flow to stock up bisque for another firing.  New glazes will be mixed again, and on we go with the flux.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Early Spring, Early Spring Workshop!

As spring is wont to do, it changes.  When I first started writing this post, just after our first workshop, it was still warm and sunny.  Today, it's at least sunny again, but the chill is still with us as a final reminder that spring is COMING.  I love the changes of the seasons!

So I had a delightful call about a week ago from some visitors to the area who wanted to have a little play in the clay, so with the support of Matt Clark at Bittersweet Studio (where I have been fortunate to work during the unfrozen months since I closed the teaching studio), I was able to put together a one-day workshop for Jayne & Jerry.  They've been in Asheville since the first of March, escaping the end of winter blues of their native Minnesota.  Lucky them, by the time they get back, they'll get a second spring!

Bittersweet Studio
getting things opened and aired after a short winter's nap

Bittersweet Studio is located on the grounds of Bittersweet Cottage - a true find of a guest house (cozy cottage or comfy suite, both with killer views!) on Elk Mtn Scenic Highway.  Matt is also a member of Crazy Green Studios, and his growing skills with clay can be seen throughout the property.  He runs the biz with his partner Stephen, who, by the way, is a genius for helping us figure out how to re-adjust the foot pedal on the wheel (and thanks too to JJ for phone support!) so the workshop could actually take place!

Matt Clark, Bittersweet's resident potter & InnKeeper
Jayne wanted to try the wheel, and she went right to it with a great attitude and good sense of humor.  She got a good feel for it, spending an hour or so centering before she started making forms.  Jerry really just wanted to 'muck about' with some hand building, but he was very kind to let me go on with several technique demonstrations before he settled in at a table in the sun to make some very cool creations.

Jayne, making her first go at a cup

Jayne with one of her last pieces of the day - very nice!
Dedicated students that they were, Jayne and Jerry took only a short break to walk up the hill a bit and enjoy some of the scenic views while I fetched us some coffees.  Over the afternoon, Jayne worked on several cups and bowls, getting better with each one, while Jerry and I drifted in and out of a conversation about fractional reserve banking (actually, he was doing most of the talking, and I learned a lot!).
Jerry, soaking up the rays and playing with clay
decorating with underglazes
on the right, a spoon rest Jerry made that I loved so much,
I asked him to make me one (on the left)

Later in the afternoon, some pieces were decorated with underglazes, while others will get a single glaze in a later firing before I ship them home to Minnesota.

We ended the day on the deck of the Suite, gazing out at the mountain views, nibbling on snacks and enjoying a lovely glass of wine with Matt before Jerry and Jayne found their way back down the mountain.

well deserved rest and refreshment after a good day's work!
It was such a delightful day, and the perfect way to re-open Bittersweet Studio for the season!  I had so much fun working with Jayne and Jerry, and the weather played right along with us creating an absolute perfect setting.

In addition to the ongoing work that Matt does there, I may be up to use my kick wheel over the season, and we'll be brewing up creative get-away opportunities for guests of the Cottage or Suite.  Anyone looking for gorgeous and comfortable accommodations just minutes from downtown yet with the seclusion of being on the side of a mountain AND use of a private studio with instruction - this is your place!