Sunday, December 16, 2007

Buy Handmade and feel good about it

I was just preparing to write about buying handmade, when the New York Times beat me to it. I guess if I'm going to be scooped by someone, a NYT writer is a decent competitor. There's a new wave of shopping mentality that sweeping the world, yes... the world.

It's about Buying Handmade goods.

Here's why you should.

And while I think some of the big chain retailers offer at least some decent stuff (Target, for example) I am bored by most of the goods that I see in the stores. Think of how many people
across the country own this

or this

or even this

When you could have this or this or this.

I think these three artists are exceptional, and I love, Love, LOVE their work.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Making an impression

Not much to report, other than I'm making some interesting ceramic platters, dishes and tiles. A friend of mine collects stamps - no, not the postage kind, the kind for stamping soft clay or fabric, to make designs. She's loaned me about 3 dozen, and I've been using them in my tile work and sushi dinnerware sets. Here are some nice examples:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Flower setting

OK, so I'm not the most techno-oriented woodworker around. I can barely figure out all the settings on my cell phone, not to mention that I had no idea how to set the old VCR. But I did learn something a couple days ago that was pretty awesome. Someone mentioned to me that my digital camera probably has a macro setting on it, allowing me to take close-ups of my work.

"Look for the flower" she said.

Lo and behold, I found it. I've been playing with it ever since! Here are some of my latest shots of a couple of soy bowls for some sushi sets I've been making:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Been firing the kiln nearly every other day, trying to keep up.

More later.....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Waterfall Glaze on sushi plates

I received an e-mail from a friend recently, he said he was busier than a one-armed paper hanger. I'm not sure that's PC, but I can relate.

It seems as if every time one project gets completed, another is lurking in the wings. On top of that, clay is my BIGGEST distraction. So even though I have every intention of finishing up the tile sets I've been making, I keep making new sushi dinnerware sets. Here are some of the small sushi plates/soy bowls that I pulled from the kiln this week.

These dishes are part of small sushi sets I have been selling on And since I recently expanded my shipping zones to include Europe, I've been getting a great deal of interest in these sets. Who knew?

Here's a link to that Etsy page.

In the book "Mastering Cone 6 Glazes", there is a recipe for Waterfall Brown, a gorgeous glaze that I've written about extensively in past blogs. These plates show some versions of that glaze that I've developed - a gold version, and a light blue version. This picture doesn't do them justice.

Incidentally, I took a sushi making class a local kitchen store that I adore, and started making my own rolls at home. If anyone wants the recipe for
a killer spicy tuna roll, e-mail me.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

I hate to say that this blog is a low priority, but when things gets hectic and sawdust is flying in my studio..... well, this blog gets pushed to the back burner.

Meanwhile, I'm working on about 10 different pieces/designs/bids at once. Here are a couple of photos of two scaled models that I recently made for a client. They represent a couple of different table base styles, both of which I'm quite fond of making.

The larger table will eventually be 12 feet long. Which makes my back hurt just thinking about it.

Pass the Advil.

PS... I'd like to add something here about, which is the service I use to host this blog. It's been miserably difficult to use the past few days. For a while, it wasn't allowing anyone to upload photographs, which pretty much renders this blog useless.

And now, that the image upload issue seems to be solved, there is a text issue. The spacing and layouts are all wrong. So if this post looks jumbled and odd, I apologize. It looks particularly bad on AOL, so anyone viewing this on AOL must wonder how I can call myself an artist!

AOL users- try viewing this in Firefox, Safari, or Netscape and it should look better. My apologies.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Guacamole, anyone?

It's been a while since I posted any new glaze test results here.

If anyone's been following this blog, they know that I've been trying to come up with a green version of a glaze made popular in the book "Mastering Cone 6 Glazes. Every time I fire the kiln, I manage to place a few test pieces somewhere inside, hoping to find the color that I can see in my head, but I just can't seem to formulate. I've gotten tips and recipes from potters all over the world. I'm inspired by not only their encouragement, but by hearing about their work and dedication to ceramics.

These two test tiles came from a recent firing. The glaze has some lovely crystals and color, and perhaps I'm too critical, but the color isn't EXACTLY what I wanted. I've been wanting a deeper green, and these are more avocado. Every time I look at these, I want to reach for some tortilla chips.

Monday, September 10, 2007

An epiphany at 38,000 feet

I had a woodworking epiphany several years ago, at 38,000 feet while on my way to San Diego for a little R&R. Looking back, it was a benign moment. I was staring out the airplane window, studying the crop circles below, made from elaborate irrigation systems. Here are some table tops that came from that inspiration:

I make circular tiles to hold that "something special" that you don't want to misplace. It might be your watch, when you work out, or your keys when you walk in the door at the end of your day. There's a slight dip in the tile, perfect for holding whatever you want it to hold. These tops have morphed over the years, I started adding a little carving to some of them. But what these pictures really remind me of is how many large holes I have routed over the years.

Because the tiles shrink as they dry, their exact size is somewhat hard to determine. I like small grout lines, so even if the hole is 1/4" too big, the resulting grout line can be large and unattractive.

I needed a better way to rout circles, and I've been searching a long time.

Fast forward to this past July, when I attended the AWFS show (the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers) here in Las Vegas. I usually try to enroll in a few seminars, and then spend some time touring the exhibitor halls. I'd seen a review of a new router accessory, called the Router Buddy, and thought it might work for me. So imagine my delight when the inventor, Louis Duplessis, had a booth, and was giving demonstrations.

It's truly a simple concept, you drill a small hole in the center of your desired circle. There's a small pin on the router base, which slips into the hole you drilled. The router rotates around that pin, it's very simple and effective, and easy to micro-adjust. In fact, it's the best system I've ever seen.

I liked it so much, I had Louis autograph the package!

I'm working on a few speculative pieces right now, there's a film maker who has expressed some interest in doing short documentaries on Las Vegas artists. So I'm trying to prepare a few things to work on when she arrives with her film crew. This piece is a current one- a small ritual table, perfect for everything from mediation, to using as a bed tray. It's Walnut, with a drawer that pulls out of the side, making access easier than a drawer in front. As usual, I'm inlaying one of my tiles. Here are a few pictures in progress. I'll post more when it's finished.

Meanwhile, if you're interested in the Router Buddy, here's a link to Louis' site.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I've started a killer restaurant review, and was going to post it here, but I keep thinking up new places to add to it. So for the time being, it's still in progress.


Maybe it's because I live up in the Northwest area of Las Vegas, the part closest to the Nevada Nuclear Test Site, but my cherry tomato plants are out of control. Radiation? Who knows?

I stopped trying to control the way these two plants grow a few months ago, when their height approached 8' tall, and they both burst the metal tomato cages I naively put up, trying to harness their growth. After splitting the metal frames, they cascades down and around the yucca, over the dwarf citrus trees, and spilled out of the bed, into the gravel. I've honestly never seen anything like it, these tomato vines are now approaching giant squid territory.

And lo and behold, the peskiest of garden pests have started to invade- the dreaded horn worm.

When I was a child, my grandparents visited us one summer in Los Angeles. We had a small garden in our mostly concrete back yard, with a few herbs and a couple of tomato plants. My grandfather Dominic was sitting outside, probably smoking a cigar, as he loved to do, and noticed some hornworms on the tomato plants. He offered a challenge- a dollar for every worm I could find.

After 10 or 15, he started to sit up and notice that this challenge might be a costly one. After 40, he started to backtrack, explaining that he meant a dime for each one. And after about 75, I was certain I had them all. He never did pay, and I still remember that incident, some 40 years later. Maybe that has something to with my "trust" issues....

Where do these ungodly things come from, anyway?

I've started finding them in my tomatoes here, and unfortunately, destroying them. In fact, every morning, when I take the dogs outside, I walk over to the plants, coffee mug in hand, and search for them. They're somewhat easy to locate; they leave a visible trail that you can't miss, even with only a half-a-cup of coffee to prop open my eyes.

In some ways, I suppose they're beautiful, in a freaky kind of way. An elegance of nature, or something like that. But they sure wreak havoc on my garden.

Stay tuned for my dining in Vegas post, coming in just a few days.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Let's talk Food...

The mania continues....

OK, I lied- I'm not taking a break from my quest to develop a Waterfall Green glaze. I just ran out of ideas of things to try, since I've tried nearly 120 different variations. I have some new (and different) dry glaze chemicals coming, they are probably on the UPS truck as I type this.

While I await the chemical delivery, I've been thinking a lot about food lately. I've found a couple of great food blogs; two of my favorites are: and

I've been spending some time devouring their photographs and recipes. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but I come from a long line of restaurateurs. My parents owned a restaurant in Los Angeles while I was growing up, and later, in Ohio, where they built one literally from the ground up. It was enormously popular and when they sold it a few years ago, they ended up retaining ownership of the recipe for their Italian Salad Dressing. It's an incredible recipe, I've had people e-mail me and beg for it.

Back to my thoughts on food...

It's amazing to me how much art can revolve around food. Potters know this well; I've not been to a single pottery that hasn't held a potluck meal, using everyone's pots. There's something special about eating off a handmade plate or bowl, especially if someone you know made it.

Woodworking is like that, too; when I was teaching, one of the most favorite classes I offered was a Cutting Board class. It's really a simple project, but once you understand the steps, you can make some incredible cutting boards. Here is one I made for my eye doctor, after she made my vision perfect:

Which brings me to this: you can't live in Las Vegas and not be amazed at all the city has to offer. While it's known for it's high rollers, bling, and excess, it also offers a wonderful array of restaurants. I'm not talking about the high priced places at the big resorts, where dinner for two can run $250-300. I'm talking about off-the-beaten-path places, where the locals dine.

I'm working on that list - my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas, all of them are away from the mania of the Strip, a little more difficult to reach, but certainly worth the cab fare. Dining at these places won't cost you a bundle of cash, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at what they have to offer.

Stay tuned....

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Is it green yet?

We're in the dog days of summer here in Las Vegas. Even with a swamp cooler running non-stop, it's often over 90˚ in my studio. Running the small test kiln nearly every day doesn't help.

I've just completed a large number of tests using the WaterFall Brown glaze base formula, but tweaking the colorants to come up with a green version. This photo will show you a little of the mania I'm experiencing; the test pieces in the front represent test # 105-112.

I've been consulting Robin Hopper's books, they contain a great deal of information about colorants and the various percentages needed to achieve the green that I want. Unfortunately, these last few batches- while they're close, they're not exactly what I had in mind.

It's back to the drawing board for me, but I've decided two things- I am going to write to Ron Roy, one of the originators of this glaze, and ask for help. And second- after one more round of testing, I am going to take a break. If I don't get the results I need, perhaps it's wise to take a breather.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A loss in the world of Art

I've lost a dear friend and mentor.

For 40 years, Dena was a highly respected and accomplished art teacher in the Passaic, NJ school system, specifically at #11 School. Her life was an inspiration to me, she lived her life exactly how she pleased. She'd written a book on elementary art eduction, and was working on a second one at the time of her death. Knowing her, she would be pissed that she never got a chance to finish it.

We spoke often, trading opinions on everything from art, to George Bush, to the stock market. But mostly just about our observations on life. Losing someone like Dena is like losing your favorite color out of a box of crayons- you can make do after the loss, but things just don't seem quite as brilliant.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Close Up of Waterfall glaze

Someone asked me to post a close-up of one of the tiles shown below. This is from the middle tile in the first picture below.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally... Waterfall Green?

Mastering Cone 6 Glazes has been an incredibly inspirational book for me.

There's something about the Waterfall Brown glaze that is so attractive. Simply put, it makes my tiles look awesome. Since February, I've been working on a spectrum of colors, using the Waterfall recipe as a base, and altering the colorants.

So far, I've developed a Waterfall white, a
Waterfall gold, a gorgeous subtle Waterfall sky blue and a vivid cobalt blue. Green is the only color I haven't been able to achieve, and with this last test load, I think I'm finally on the right path. I'm approaching test #60; it's easy to get a little carried away when the results are this rewarding.

These first examples- while they're lovely, still don't have enough green in them. But the detail is lovely.

This next set is clearly more promising for the green appearance I'm trying to find.

Here are the two tests that most closely resemble what I'm trying to create. There are a few pin holes in these, I'm not sure why. But I plan on running some more tests, to see if the pinholing persists.

BTW- sorry for the double post on the ClayArt board. :)

If anyone has any recipe questions, comments and/or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

It's been a while since I posted here, I did a little traveling, having to attend to a home that I own back in Ohio. It's a great home, sitting on 7+ acres of pure heaven. It's a Geodesic dome, surrounded by a forest of hardwood trees. With a huge, heated art studio. I miss living there- and hope that someday, another artist buys it. If not an artist, at least someone who fully appreciates all the custom woodworking and cabinetry that I did in it. It's full of secret hidden places, nooks and built-ins.

Here's a picture of it- although I'm not a snow lover, this home looks amazing in the winter.

I also had the opportunity to have a "girls night out" with some old woodshop friends. We met when they enrolled in the wood classes I used to teach. After a while, our friendships really weren't based on woodworking anymore, but rather more about sharing our lives- births and deaths, marriages and divorces, and certainly our highs and lows. It's funny how chance meetings with others give us friendships for life.

If you asked them about their woodworking skills, each one of these women would probably be modest and say they consider themselves just average. Don't believe it. They are all pretty great woodworkers, which is WAY cool. Someday, maybe I'll post a few of their projects here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Time for slumping?

I've been known to buy a piece of meat or seafood not for dinner, but for the styrofoam container on which it's packed. A simple trip to the grocery store can provide potters with a multitude of forms - perfect for making plaster slump molds. My studio is filled with them, in fact, I mix small batches of plaster once or twice each week, filling the latest booty from my weekly shopping excursion. The photo below shows the transition - from foam mold to plaster cast to fired ceramic dish.

There aren't too many shapes you won't find- especially in the meat/seafood department. And one single foam tray can make a variety of slump molds, depending on how much plaster you pour into it. A shallow pour of a half inch works well for plates. Pouring the plater deeper will allow you to make molds for casserole dishes, platters and more.

Here are some of the slump molds I have laying around, I keep them in racks near the slab roller, where I can quickly grab the appropriate form.

In the next photo, notice the two small square trays in the top row. I use those for soy bowls when making sushi dinnerware sets. I couldn't find any styrofoam trays small enough for the soy bowls, so I cut down a long narrow tray and spliced it back together to make the small square. The plaster cast revealed a small seam, where the two halves were joined. It's quite easy to clean the seam up with small tools, such as dental picks, X-actos (my personal favorite), files, or even small surform tools.

A recent visit to Costco, where I purchased one of their heavenly roasted chickens, set me in a new direction. The dish on which it's served reminds me of a tire tread. I've been experimenting with platters that look as if they've been run over by a tire. Since this mold is so textural, it works best with softer clay that won't tear around all the knobs.

As nerdly as it sounds, I've become somewhat of a meat tray snob. Some of the trays have a lovely texture in the bottom. I'm sure it's so the meat doesn't sit in it's own juices. Other trays are plain at the bottom. Both are shown below, in the exact same size. The textured trays provide some lovely effects on the plates that are made with them. When shopping, I'll choose something with a textured tray over a plain tray. If I decide later that I don't want the texture, it's easy to eliminate with a surform tool.

After a while, it's easy to find you've accumulated MANY plaster molds. I've started building small shelving racks for them, using pegboard for the shelves. The pegboard promotes air circulation, keeping the molds dry when they're not being used. I've found it's handy to have duplicate slump molds, so that when I'm making a dinner ware set, I don't have to wait for the clay to set up to re-use the mold. I just grab another one that's available. I've learned that a quart of water, and the appropriate plaster (2 lbs, 12 ounces) will make roughly 4 of these small molds.

The end result? Here are 3 plates that were quite successful.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

It's Spring! Time to make rattles

It's baby season again. Every few years, the cycle begins again and I get requests for wooden baby rattles.

It started when I made a rattle for a friend who had a baby, I turned a simple rattle on the lathe, and then made a small commemorative box to hold it. Over the years, the box has become more elaborate, with the baby's initials or birth date carved in it. Then someone requested a second compartment within the box, to hold the baby's first pair of shoes. It's a lovely little keepsake for a family.

So I've been in the studio, making rattles and boxes. It's somewhat repetitive, and my mind tends to drift a bit. Then something dawned on me!

In one of the earlier posts here, I showed a sample of a REAL blue glaze I've been developing. Here's a picture of it again. (Scroll down a few posts and you can read more about this glaze, it's based on a recipe in the book- Mastering Cone 6 Glazes, by John Hesselberth and Ron Roy.

Since the box that I make to hold these rattles is a simple "pencil" box with a sliding lid, it dawned on me that it might be nice to add tile to the sliding lid. Or even made the entire lid out of one large, flat tile. The tiles I make are very flat, and I've learned how to make them quite thin without warping while in the kiln.

So now it's back to the drawing board for me. I'd like to try and develop a pink version of this glaze. Any suggestions?