Showing posts with label pottery wheel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pottery wheel. Show all posts

Monday, July 7, 2014

TEEN Classes ...

Living in rural Virginia is such a wonderful experience for families.
It is a peaceful, easy going way to raise children.  When those kids reach the teen years, it is wonderful to have alternative activities with which they can participate. Pottery is a great outlet for the busy and sometimes complex lives of our teens.  With pottery there are no grades, no exams, no recitals, no special equipment or uniforms to complicate the experience.
Pottery is a wonderful leveling activity.  No matter if you are the quarterback, the math whiz or a shy quiet student, every teen can enjoy the experience of working with clay. Each teen will walk away from their clay experience with new insight the art form, and may find a passion and talent they never knew was there.

At Big Dog Pots Pottery we will begin offering a TEEN CLASS on Friday evenings from 6:30-8:30 pm starting in September. We will go back and forth between both hand building and working with the wheel and will explore all the basics of both forms of working with clay.

Classes will be kept small so that each student can receive personalized instruction in a positive and welcoming environment.

Our first class will begin on Friday, September 5th and will run in four (4) week sessions.  Sign up will be on a first come basis.  Please contact the Studio with any questions (540) 364-2834.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Choosing A Pottery Wheel.....

Picking out a pottery wheel, my method behind the myriad of choices. It is a tough choice and it gets more difficult when you are buying multiples! There is little real information on overall satisfaction from potters themselves about wheels and their highs and lows.  Yes,there are forums, and discussion threads, and large sales companies who write up the products they are selling.  There are some very detailed reviews on wheels available online.  What I was searching for was a more "ethereal" view point from the potters themselves and how the connect with the wheels they use.  Although I am sure I did not hit ever nook and cranny of information out there, I am confident in my choice, basically because of the way I feel when I use it, and my overall level of comfort with the design.

Basically, I am a Pacifica GT800 potter, and I will tell you why....  I have thrown on Brent, Thomas-Stuart, Creative Industries, and Shimpo wheels of varying ages and styles (including the stick shift version), and not being a kick wheel user, I did not investigate those options.  Of the wheels I have used I just keep coming back to my Pacifica.

While a number of the manufacturers listed are substantial and venerable for sure, for my purposes, and the students I anticipate working with, I believe the Pacifica wheels will do a wonderful job.

I am not going to go through all the other styles and tell you what I liked and disliked about each and how they stack up against one another. Instead I thought I would simply share what I LOVE about my Pacifica GT800  which I have been using, basically on a daily basis, for the past 6 years.

Me Throwing on a Shimpo Wheel
First, it is solid.  It doesn't move, rattle, clank.  It stays still and lets the wheel head do its job.
Next, it is QUIET.  Very important to me because for me wheel work is often meditative and quite is paramount.  No distracting noises, none. The splash pan is super easy to put on and take off and I never seem to hit that "oh, I have the pieces reversed" dilemma. I really like the non-porous work table that is built right in.  It has lots of room for tools, water buckets, and all those other nick knacks you just have to have when you sit down to throw. Finally, I think it is important to purchase enough throwing power so that as you progress and build your skills you are not limited by the size of your horsepower.  The GT800 has 1.0 hp which is all I will ever need.

So, this was my process.  It was not scientific, but I am confident my students will enjoy throwing on these wheels for many, many QUIET years to come.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

UNDER CONTRACT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We are moving ahead.  Still keeping the exact property under wraps, for now.  But things are definitely moving along.
We plan to settle in the next few weeks.  Then the property will need some much needed repairs, new equipment will be arriving and we hope to move in during November.
Sammie and Sneakers Help with Refinishing a Chest of Drawers
Hopefully, Saturdays in December, we will be open for Holiday shopping.
Then in the first week in January we will begin classes for pottery and other art forms (HINT)!
LOTS going the mean time we are working behind the scenes getting fixtures and other pieces built and/or refinished so that they will be ready to move in when we are.
I have accumulated a number of displays during my 7 years on the show circuit, my theme for the gallery is going to be white on white so that the pottery and other unique items (HINT) will display well. 

I hope to create an inviting, uplifting, and comfortable place where children and adults can immerse themselves in pottery and other art forms (HINT.....yes AGAIN).
These first steps toward making that a reality for my hometown are really very exciting.  Stay tuned as more information rolls out over the next few weeks and months.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Feeling "Crabby"

This time of year, it is easy to hide away deep inside my studio and "coast".  But, this time of year has usually been when I try new things, experiment, and enjoy working with all things Spring and Summer.  This year is no different and I am feeling quite "crabby".

The temperature is below freezing outside and Daisy, Max and Sneakers (the cat) are all snug and sleeping in their respective beds under my work table, and I am glazing flowers, starfish, seahorses, bunnies, and crabs. Light glaze colors, and new layered combinations should be coming out of the kiln soon, but for now, I think you will get the gist with this fabulous crab wall pocket.  I love to make these hangers, and just really love and respect this vibrant blue.

It is funny how a potter learns which glazes are temperamental and which are tried and true. This one is definitely in the "tried and true" category, but when I experiment with layering, it has been disastrous in the past.  For this particular piece I went with the full on, true Spring blue and was very pleased with the result.

Next up, filling orders for custom pieces which have come in this month.  Getting ready for my Spring show at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg,Virginia, the first Saturday in March.  I will be taking all my new Spring/Summer pieces to that show along with a host of wall pockets and wall hangers.  I have not had that many with me at that show in a couple of years and customers always ask if I still make them, so I am coming back in full force and should have a lovely selection to share.

But for now, back to the studio to finish glazing, run the kiln, keep glazing and run it again! Busy week.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 Lessons Learned.....

Santa Hawaii Style
Who knew that 6 years ago I would be blogging about pottery.  6 years ago I was far from where I am now, but I am so thankful for the wonderful opportunities pottery has brought into my life, and for the whole range of new people it has also brought to me.  You know who you are out there, and I sincerely appreciate you, thank you for all you do!

2012 has been a year of expansion and learning here at Big Dog Pots.  I entered into several new retail venues, and am in discussions with a few more to come online in early 2013.  As a result of my new found brick and mortar locations, I have cut back on the number of shows that I attend.  2013 will see even further pairing down of my show schedule to 3 shows total, perhaps even less.

Being able to leave the show circuit has been a learning experience.  It is wonderful to interact with customers in the show setting to get their feedback and ideas on my pieces, and also to receive new ideas from people who stop by my booth and ask "have you ever seen one of those....." or "my grandmother had a ...." and the ever present "can you make me.....".

In exchange for this valuable feedback, I have been able to save wear and tear on Me!  Shows are exhausting to participate in.  Crafters arrive at 0-dark-hundred, spend about an hour and a half setting up, sit throughout the entire day, (or two, or three), then carefully pack out making sure they are ready to set up the next time, and are able to inventory what they need to create what has been depleted. Also saved is working on someone else's schedule of when you have to arrive, leave, and how to participate.  Most of those are not really issues for me, but occasionally you are placed next to the noisy vendor, the vendor with the wafting perfume, or the vendor who thinks they are a superhero and sets up their booth with such a flurry you are terrified that they will take out half of your display in the process.  For the most part, I have met lovely vendors, and have been lucky enough to be situated near some very nice people.  Many of whom have now become good friends.

What I have learned this year also extended in to the "World of ETSY".  I had tried to create a shop on ETSY about 3 years ago and found the programming not user friendly.  I always say "I am mud savvy, not computer literate".  So after being encouraged by many, many customers that "you really need to be on ETSY", I took the plunge again.  I found this time around that the minds behind ETSY had taken numerous steps to make it more user friendly.  I still have problems figuring out the details of some aspects of how it really works, but I have a shop, I have made sales, I have made custom orders, and I now have an ETSY presence.  The down side to ETSY is that it is time deceptively time consuming.  Photographing, editing, posting, monitoring, communicating, shipping, all take time away from not only making pottery, but living an everyday life.  For now, I will continue my efforts on ETSY, but am reconsidering they types of things I offer and will continue to alter various types of items available.


Something I have avoided.
I do see the value of making multiples.  Time saving, work saving, money saving.  I will begin to make multiples, but in a "Big Dog Pots" way.  My multiples will be unique.


Something I must do for next Christmas.
As the stars aligned, I was entering into various retail venues in late October.  The pieces I had made all year for the Holiday Season were all downloaded into brick and mortar stores.  So, come Christmas, I was really depleted and did not have enough items that were ready to ship.  Next year will be different, and hopefully as a result more successful.


As I am expanding, I have found that it is becoming more difficult to donate 100% of my proceeds to my favorite animal rescue groups.  While my level of giving to these groups will remain constant, or in some instances will increase, I now find that I do need some funds to maintain my equipment, pay electricity for the increased number of kiln runs, purchase basic materials, and the gas needed to drive the hour each way to the nearest pottery supplier.  As a result, my website, ETSY site, and everywhere else now says that I "donate a portion of my proceeds to animal rescue groups in my hometown."  I wanted to be honest, the past 6 years I was able to donate 100%.  From this point forward, that percentage will have to fluctuate.

So, as I enter into my 6th year in this endeavor, I continue to learn, continue to be inspired, continue to create and be passionate about making pottery.  All in all, it has been a very good year!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Before and After...

As promised, I am sharing the before and after photos of a recent paisley textured vase. I must say I was a little disappointed with the final piece. It is very nice, and there is nothing wrong with it, at all, in fact technically, it is one of my best. But, all along the process, I thought the clay was lighter! I glazed it and expected one outcome, and low and behold the finished product was much darker than I had envisioned. The glazes that I chose were subtle, and therefore are not as dramatic as I had thought they would have been on a lighter clay.

It is all a part of the process. I just forgot that I had used this particular clay on this piece. All a part of the ongoing learning curve.

I think with pottery, the curve goes on....and on....and on.....

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In Process

We have been given a little break from the intense heat this summer. So, I took the opportunity to get back into the studio. This is a nice piece that is in process. It is structurally quite sturdy, and I am loving the paisley and daisy impressions. I will post a finished photo in a few weeks.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24th National Take Your Dog to Work Day

There has been a lot of discussion in pottery circles about having a dog, or other pets in the studio with you. There is a great deal of concern about having our fluffy friends spending so much time on the floor of a potentially caustic environment. Although, I do not use leaded materials in my studio, I am sure that just based on the amount of dust and dirt, and general mess that accumulates in my studio in an average week, there is room for concern.

Now with two new puppies in my life, I am readdressing the issue. I spoke with a potter in North Carolina while in her studio, and I was struck by how CLEAN everything was! Now, I am not the cleanest potter in the world, but this was SUPER clean. I asked her how she did it, how did she keep the environment SO CLEAN.

Being that I was not asking about POTTERY secrets, but CLEANING secrets, she "came clean" with ALL the information (you potters out there know EXACTLY what I am talking about here).

She used a wet/dry vacuum and then a steam cleaner for the floors. So wanting to be just like her, I purchased a steam cleaner. I must say, it has done a great job of helping me to keep the studio floors cleaner.

I am not as anxious to have my wonderful pups in there with me now. I have great cross ventilation, an air purifier running 24/7, and I am not steam cleaning my floors in addition to regular vacuuming with a HEPA filter.

So, I feel confident to post, that on Friday, June 24th, my two wonderful puppies came to work with me. Of course they come everyday, but I thought I would be like everyone else, and have them come on the one day that they are socially expected to be there.

Do you bring pets to your studio? How do you prepare the area for them? Do you have concerns about materials in your studio? How do you clean your studio? All comments, suggestions, concerns are welcome!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Getting into Gear...

Well, this winter has been a hard one. The weather coupled with some family "stuff" have really put me behind as I try to get ready for my Spring show schedule. My first show is on March 20th, and I am a little low on inventory. I have a couple weeks, but as all you potters out there know, a couple weeks is NOT a lot of time in pottery language.

I made good use of my time during the snow. I printed out lots of photos of pieces that I liked, and have made a formal "glaze book". Listing glaze combinations with corresponding photos of pieces. It is a really helpful exercise, but it was time consuming. Now I will just add to it as I go.

The dish I am showing in this blog was a glaze redo, and it came out, right on the money! It is very satisfying to discover combinations and then be able to recreate them again!

So, I guess my efforts are beginning to pay off.

This weekend it is supposed to get into the 50's here, so I am thinking "wheel time". Remember, I have no running water in my studio, so I have to rely on a hose. Having a reasonable temperature sure goes a long way toward comfort when using the wheel.

Overall, I am hopeful as my bulbs begin to peek up through the ground. It is comforting to know that regardless of weather or other obstacles in life, earth continues to turn and life renews itself once again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Notes to Self...

Well, I have some time on my hands as storm #2 begins to pound away outside. Unfortunately, due to a LOT of snow I haven't been able to get much pottery done. My first show of 2010 is March 20th, and I am realizing, that that is just not that far away.

Things in general have started "OK". Some wheel work went surprisingly well, but seriously, it is so hard to work without hot water and have to rely on a hose in 30 degree weather.

Oh, well, potters are notorious for being independent problem solvers, so I guess I glided through that issue and have the bowls to prove it!

On the down side, I had been in LOVE with a very flowing glaze combination that when done looked like a river! I thought I would give it a go on a verticle piece. Note to self, when a glaze looks "flowing" it is probably because it DOES. Luckily, I have found a great use for the pot as a brush holder. I get to enjoy it, and have learned from it at the same time.

My dog Billy is getting old. what can I say, he was a rescue, we love him, we are keeping him company but there will be no heroics, just a sweet, loving goodbye when the time comes. I have had 7 dogs, some for more than 15 years each. I think it is very interesting that the ones that I have had since birth are the ones which have really bonded with me and my husband. Just an observation.

Billy is a funny guy. He doesn't bark. He was abused before we got him and trained to go outside right after he eats, but when he needs to go outside, he will just stand by the door, not saying a thing! Note to self, don't go to the studio to work after feeding the dog...remember to let him out! And yet, he survives us!

Here is that pot I glazed vertically and the evidence of my mistake. Live and learn! Hopefully, when this snow finally ends, I will be able to get back to the mud big time. I am beginning once again to feel the pressure!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Welcome Back!

No Mr. Kotter is not coming by to say hi. It has been too busy of a year. But summer is winding down, kids will be back in school, and I will be hitting the mud HARD.

I just updated my events schedule for the rest of the year, you can check out where I will be at

I also decided I would give Etsy a try. Many people ask if I have a local shop, when I say "no", then they usually follow with "you need to be on Etsy".

SO, I took their advise and have expanded my "computering" and have just created an Etsy shop. You can check that out at

Well, now on to "pot news".

Not sure if I mentioned that I started taking a class in the wheel in Feburary. More of a stop in a chat type thing. But I got to play with mud while it went AROUND in a circle. COOL!!

My teacher was patient, but didn't "get" what I was trying to do. Fortunately, people at my shows "get" it and the wheel items have been flying off the table.

SO, my wonderfully supportive husband of 24 year (and counting) decided I "needed" to get my own. So, I am now the proud owner of a Pacifica GT400. LOVE,LOVE,LOVE this wheel.

I have also expanded my handbuilding to include some new and interesting pieces, including unique communion plates and goblets.

I will post more pictures soon.