Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sugar Skull Mug

This is the time of year where we see lots of skulls and skeletons on American, but in other cultures people celebrate their deceased ancestors at different times of the year.  Although we tend to think of sugar skulls as being from Mexico their history can be traced back to Palermo, Italy where my great-grandfather was born.  So you see the ancestor connection.

Day of the Dead Mug by Lori Buff
Sugar Skull Mug

This is one of my favorite mugs from a recent firing.  I love the color of the glaze and the way the sugar skull came out.  The painting has that watercolor quality that I’m continually trying to achieve.

I was going to take pictures of it to put on Etsy but I have so many shows coming up in November and December that I don’t feel like I can give my Etsy Store the attention it deserves right now.  That’s something I need to fix for next year.  In the meantime, I’ll be at the Chastian Park Arts Festival this weekend so I need to get back to the studio.  If your near the park on Nov 1st or 2nd stop by my booth and say “hi.”

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Making Old Traditions New

Do you have any holiday traditions from childhood that you still carry on?  Have they changed at all over the years?  When I was a kid my brother and my mom and I used to make cookies around the holidays.  It was great fun to mix up the cookie dough and roll it out then cut out the different shapes and decorate them with sprinkles, frosting, and those little, red, cinnamon candies.  I loved the way they smelled when they were baking.  Of course my favorite part was eatting the first one while it was still warm from the oven.  I can still taste them when I remember those times.

My mom kept the cookie cutters and cake decorating tool (a hand held extruded) in an old box with pink and yellow starburst flowers on it.  Just looking at that box, knowing what was inside it, thinking about those times makes me smile.

Cooke Cutter Ornaments by Lori Buff
Cookie Cutter Clay

This past summer I was given that box and its contents because my mom doesn't think she's going to be baking holiday cookies any more.  I looked at it the other day and was filled with a sense of nostalgia, but I leave the baking to Janet, the expert.  Still, I thought I should show them some love.  So I took the box down to the studio and made ornaments.  I'll have fun decorating them but I doubt they will smell as good in the kiln as the cookies did in the oven.  It doesn't matter, I only hope that whoever buys them includes them in the family traditions for many years.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Monday, October 27, 2014

Meatless Monday - Vegetarian Posole

Several years ago I took a trip to New Mexico which is a fantastic state.  The landscape is amazing, the people were extremely friendly, and the pottery was beautiful.  I fell in love with the place and long to go back.  While I was there I was introduced to Posole which is a brothy soup that is full of flavors like cumin and cilantro.  It's delicious but it's usually made with pork or the vegetarian version is made with beans.  I don't do beans.  This recipe doesn't have beans in it but if you wanted to dump a can of pinto beans into the soup while it was cooking I'm sure it wouldn't hurt anything.

I used sweet potatoes for this recipe because I had some from my garden.  You could use white potatoes but remember that baking potatoes tend to break down in the soup and will make the broth thicker, russet potatoes will hold together better, it’s just a personal preference.

I garnished these with Limed Pumpkin Seeds which are really easy to make by mixing the juice of one line with half a tablespoon of salt in a small bowl or ramekin.  Then toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet.  Keep the skillet moving over the flame or stir continuously so the seeds don’t burn.  When the seeds are toasty brown pour the lime/salt over the seeds and stir until all the liquid is gone. Put the seeds in the ramekin and serve.

Veggie Posole  Soup by Future Relics
Vegetarian Posole


1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves
1 pasilla chile, dried, seeded, deveined and minced
2 quarts vegetable broth
1 lime juiced
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves separated, stems tied tightly
1 large can hominy, about 29 ounces,
1 small bag frozen corn, thawed if possible
2 zucchini squash, cut into bite size pieces
1 medium potato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
salt and pepper to taste
Pimenton or ground chipotle chile, optional, to taste
cotija or feta cheese
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds with Lime (*see recipe above)
1/4 head cabbage, shredded
cilantro leaves, chopped


In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions, oregano, and pasilla chile and stir until onions and chile are soft and beginning to brown. Add one heaping teaspoon of ground cumin and stir, cooking for a few moments. Add vegetable stock to onion mixture, then lime juice, and cilantro stems. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered for about ten minutes.

Add hominy, corn, zucchini and potato and simmer.

Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and cumin. To add smokiness without much heat, add sweet smoked Spanish pimenton. For smokiness with more heat, add a dash of dried chipotle chile.

Prepare garnishes: small communal bowls of crumbled cotija or feta cheese, roasted pumpkin seeds, shredded cabbage, and cilantro leaves. Serve soup in large bowls.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Friday, October 24, 2014

Two Things You Need To Know About Pottery

Teaching new potters is always a lot of fun.  When people don’t know all their is to know about pottery (if that’s even possible) they are more likely to experiment.  Sometimes they do things that I might consider a mistake but they end up with fantastic results.  Of course sometimes they end up with a mess and very often they end up with broken pots.  Sometimes that’s where the fun begins.

If you’ve spent a few minutes trying to throw a pot and it collapses or you dent it you can always dry and re-wedge the clay then start over.  It’s no big deal and hopefully a lesson was learned.  But as you get further into the process of making a piece it becomes harder and harder to let it go.  This is especially true for the new student.  It takes so long to make a piece, then you have to wait for it to dry, which could take days or even weeks depending on conditions.  Then they have to wait for the kiln to be loaded and fired, another day for cooling and then they see a piece that is ready to be decorated.  After it’s glazed more time is spent waiting for the pot to be fired and cooled.  It takes patience.  Meanwhile, all your friends are asking to see what you’ve made in pottery class.

Pile of Broken Pots

At any point in the process something can happen and the piece can break.  It may be a weak seam that cracks, it may be an “S” crack that forms on the bottom of a thrown pot, it may get dropped or bumped.  Sometimes uneven drying can cause cracks and breaks.  Some cracks don’t even show up until the piece comes out of the glaze kiln and not much can be done to save it.

Professional potters have to consider the time it takes to repair a piece and decide if it is worth it to spend that time and will the piece be perfect when it’s done or will it be compromised.  If it’s compromised or if it takes far too long to fix it then it’s best to let go of the pot.  But students have the time and are highly motivated to fix a broken pot.

So what are the two things you need to know?  How to make it, and how to fix it.  Information on both could take up volumes.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You’ve Got To Make Mugs

Do you find analogies between work and life?  Or maybe you find them between your work and someone else’s.  I seem to do that all the time and it’s not even intentional, it’s just how I think.  Like the other day when a friend was talking about a co-worker who spends lots of time and effort on every single project he does.  It’s great that he wants everything to be a masterpiece but it’s difficult when they have deadlines to meet.  My mind connected the dots to what she was talking about to making mugs.

Every potter should be able to make mugs, and good ones.  It’s so nice to hear a customer tell me that the mug I made is their favorite and that they use it every day.  Also, they are the gateway drug to more hand crafted items, especially pottery.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve sold a mug to someone who comes to me later and buys a casserole, a vase, or even more mugs.  Mugs introduce people to the potter’s craft.  They use and enjoy the mug and realize that they would like more handmade pottery in their lives or that a similar mug would make a great gift.

Om Yoga Mug by Future Relics Gallery
Om Mugs

Mugs are relatively inexpensive and thus accessible for the customer.  That also means that I can’t afford to spend a month working on one mug that will sell for $25.  I have to be able to make a well crafted and beautiful mug fairly quickly.  This isn’t about shortcuts or settling, it’s about competencies and practice.  It’s also about knowing when to throw a piece into the scrap bucket.  It’s about balance.

Sometimes we want to create a beautiful and elaborate work of museum quality art, sometimes we want to create a beautiful mug to bring pottery into people’s lives.

Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff