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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meatless Monday - French Onion Soup Mac and Cheese

Some times we just need comfort food.  Other times we want that same dish jazzed up a bit.  Two of my favorite meals are mac and cheese and French onion soup.  So what would happen if we combined the two.  Awesome deliciousness, that's what.  But what about the people who are trying to avoid pasta for various reasons?  How about using cauliflower as a substitute?  Cauliflower and cheese is delicious.

When I took this picture it was warm enough to eat outside but too dark to get a good shot. You’ll have to trust me that it looks as good as it tastes.
Cooking the Mac and Cheese

French Onion Soup Mac and Cheese


Ingredients
For the pasta:
  • 1 pound of macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 12 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • 6 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg

For the topping:
  • 4 medium yellow onions, sliced thin
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme (stems removed)
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs 
Instructions
Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a dutch oven add butter, olive oil, onions and thyme over medium-low heat.  Sauté, stirring occasionally. After about 15 minutes stir in white wine to deglaze the pan.  Continue to caramelize the onions until they are golden brown in color (approximately 20-30 minutes).  Set onions aside.

Add butter and flour to a medium sauce pan on medium heat. Whisk constantly until a paste forms. Slowly pour in milk while whisking constantly. Bring sauce to a boil. Mix in garlic and cheese while stirring. When all the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth remove from heat. Mix cooked pasta together with the cheese sauce in the dutch oven.

Pour macaroni into a large casserole dish. Top with caramelized onions. Crumble bread crumbs over the top of the onions. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes until the top has browned and the cheese is bubbling.
Check out the gallery page - Future Relics Gallery by Lori Buff

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Substitute Teacher

Remember being in elementary school when the teacher was out and the substitute was there in his or her place?  Maybe you weren’t the kid that made life tough for the substitute teacher but that kid probably did exist in your class.  Some kids didn’t try to tease the sub but rather tried to get away with as much as possible.  You remember “But Mrs. Jones lets us do art all afternoon, not just for an hour.” Said the kid who would rather do art than math.  Oh, maybe that was me.

In any event, the tables have turned and I have now found myself being a substitute teacher in a local pottery class.  The regular teacher had to have some surgery and will be out for a few weeks so I was invited to take over her class.  Tuesday was the first day for me and it was a lot of fun.

Happy Pottery Soap Sponge Cup Holder by Lori Buff
Happy Soap/Sponge Holder

The students are great.  They are fun, smart, and interesting.  For example, one of the students is a sculptor but he’s stepped away from sculpting for this class.  He isn’t interested in making a great work of art or anything like that.  He calls this his “therapy time.”  He’s just playing.  As teachers we are just guiding him gently and answering questions as he needs them answered.  He doesn’t throw pots.  He puts the clay on the wheel and creates a pot by carving away the clay he doesn’t need and doing some pushing to get the shape he wants.  He was doing this while we discussed the beauty of asymmetry.  So his pots are technically thrown wrong but artistically they are right.  That’s alright with him.

I enjoy teaching because I get so much from my students as they get so much from me.  A pottery class normally has lots of giving and lots of smiles and laughter.  We could all use a few hours of that in a day.

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

When It Rains

Atlanta was hit with very strong storms today.  It looks like a tornado might have taken down some trees on the north side of the city.  Reports of flooding and power outages are all over the news.  It’s been a rough morning for lots of people.

I hid inside for the worst of it but I had a kiln to unload and pots to trim so I ventured out into the rain, unloaded the kiln and brought a piece into the studio.  I had not even put the bowl down when all hell broke loose.  Now, I love the sound of the rain on the tin roof but acorns and large twigs are another thing entirely.  They startle me at times but I’m growing used to it.  This was much, much worse than acorns.

Tree Branch Broke Door
A large tree branch had fallen from the ancient oak that shades my studio and much of my back yard and house.  It hit the glass door and shattered the outer layer of glass, but the second layer held.  That’s a good thing.

Roof Damage

Part of the Branch
I’m planing to cut this up and throw it into Roger’s wood kiln next month.  When life hands you firewood, make glaze.  When life hands you lemons, make whiskey sours.

Boken Skylight
I was standing under the skylight when the branch hit and shattered it.  Again, the first layer of glass broke but the second layer held fast.  I really like thermal pane.

The insurance agent says we are covered for this type of damage after we meet the $2100 deducible.  I’m not sure where that money will come from but I do have a lot of shows coming up in November, cross your fingers that they will be really good ones.

On the bright side, I’m okay and now I have something new to write about in this blog.

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