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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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meatless Monday - Thai Spiced Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce and Cashews

Sometimes it’s not always convenient to reheat leftovers so it’s nice to have something tasty that doesn’t need to be heated.  Yes, you can always make a sandwich or a green salad but that gets tired after a while.  I love variety in my meals.  Dishes that are great hot and cold help to provide some of that variety.  This dish is a perfect example.  So it’s something I might take with me to The Collective on my work day there, I don’t have to microwave it and if a customer comes in while I’m eating my lunch I don’t have to worry about it getting cold.  It would also be a great dish to take to a pot luck.

Of course this dish is also great when it’s fresh and hot so you’ll enjoy it the first night.

This is one of those dishes that is easy to make vegan but nobody will ever notice and might not even think about it being vegan.  The recipe calls for honey in the sauce but you could easily substitute agave syrup and it would be vegan.

Thai Spiced Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce and Cashews by Future Relics
Thai Spiced Coconut Rice with Ginger Peanut Sauce and Cashews

Ingredients:

For the Coconut Rice:

1½ cups dry jasmine rice
1 (15 oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water

For the Ginger Peanut Sauce:
⅓ cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons honey or light agave syrup
3 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoon sesame oil
Water to thin
Lime wedges

For the Salad:
2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
1 red cabbage, shredded
1½ cups shredded carrots
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
¾ cup green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup cashews, finely chopped

Directions:

In a medium-sized pot, mix together the rice, coconut milk, garlic, salt, and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the pot reaches a rolling boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer covered for at least 30 minutes (longer if the rice is a longer cooking rice, check the package). After 30 minutes, turn off heat and let sit covered for another 10 minutes.

As you wait for the rice, make the peanut sauce by heating the peanut butter for 15 seconds in the microwave in a small microwave safe bowl, or until the peanut butter thins.  Add the honey or agave, ginger, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. Stir well and thin with a little water if needed.

When the rice is done fluff it and combine it with the chopped vegetables and cashews (reserve a few whole cashews for garnish). Drizzle with a bit of the Ginger Peanut Sauce and taste-- you most likely will not need to use all of it. Serve with lime wedges.

If you have leftovers, stir the peanut sauce into them really well before storing in the refidgerator.

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pottery Drying Technique

The other day I posted a picture of some pots drying on a terry cloth towel which prompted a question in the comments about drying the pots.  I thought the answer was better served as a blog post than a short comment.  I figure this may help others understand what’s going on also.

I got the idea after taking a workshop with Lana Wilson and Callanwolde.  Lana is a joy, the workshop was lots of fun.  I highly recommend taking a workshop with her if you get a chance.  In the workshop she told us that she dries her pots on a wire rack from an old refrigerator but with an old t-shirt lining the shelf.  The reason for the t-shirt is that it allowed some air to pass through the wire shelf, and absorbed a little moisture but helped prevent the pot from showing lines from the wires.
Drying Pottery by Future Relics Gallery
Drying Pottery
This made good sense to me.  I have quite the t-shirt collection so it was easy to find one to sacrifice.  The thing is, I didn’t find it to work so well.  I figured since Lana’s work is hand build and mine is thrown mine is softer from a higher moisture content.  So I tried using an old towel and that seemed to do the trick.

Naturally, if the pot is really wet or heavy it will still form lines so those pieces are dried on a solid shelf.  Once the pots are dried enough that they won’t get marks I move them to another wire shelf to finish drying.

How do you dry your pots?

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

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Making Empty Bowls

Hunger is a huge issue in America.  That seems strange when you also consider that we are the most obese people on the planet but it truly is a problem.  I heard a statistic recently that about one in eight people in this country are struggling with not having enough food.  It’s very sad but it’s a problem that has lots of people working on a remedy.

Of course potters are part of the solution.  We are often involved in Empty Bowls Events.

The Empty Bowls Project is a grassroots movement dedicated to helping stop hunger.  So when my friend, artists Micah Goguen of Visualeyes Create asked me to make some bowls I was more than happy to do so.

Here’s a sampling of the freshly trimmed bowls.  There will be many more.

Empty Bowls
If you’re going to be anywhere near Kathleen, GA on November 2, 2014 you should make plans to head over to Bare Bulb Coffee for this event.  You’ll get a homemade organic soup and fresh bread plus a hand crafted bowl all for $20.

Here’s a link with all the details:  Empty Bowls Nov 2.


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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gotta Split

Wood firing pottery is not an easy task.  It's a lot of work and it's best done with a community if you're going to fire an anagama.  This past June I was invited to bring some pots to fire in Roger Jamison's anagama near Macon.  It was a lot of fun and a good firing despite loosing some pieces.  So when I learned that he was going to be splotting a stacking wood for the next firing I was more than happy to volunteer to help.

Splitting and sticking enough wood to bring a kiln up to 2300 degrees definitely takes a community effort.  I came on Sunday so quite a bit of the work was already done but we still had a few trees to cut, lots of stumps to move to the splitter and lots of stumps to split.  This is followed by lots of wood to stack so we got busy right away.

Logs To Split

I have to say how grateful I am that someone invented the log splitter.  It's a wonderful tool and made a hard job much easier.  It helps save time not only by being the muscle but also by making it easier to split wood that is wet.  I learned that when I tree dies because of an insect infestation it will often retain a lot of water and sap because it dies so fast and the moisture can't escape through the leaves like it would if it died slowly. Did you know a large tree can hold several hundred gallons of water?

 Much of the wood we had was from trees that had died from bugs so the wood was very wet.  It will dry out much faster now that it's split but it would have been really tough to split it by hand with so much moisture in it.  I can't imagin what it was like for potters in the north with long cold winters and wood kilns.  Of course if you heat with wood you warm yourself twice, once cutting, once burning.

I hope the timing works out so that I can get some pots into this kiln, it'll be fun to handle those pieces of wood again.


Guitar Pickin' Potters

At the end of the day we relaxed with a little music from a couple of pickin' potters.  It was perfect.

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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Meatless Monday - Leeks and Chiles in Green Rice

A friend gave me some beautiful chiles from her garden with the warning that they were very, very hot.  That's cool, we really love hot food.  The peppers sat on the counter overnight and started to show an orange blush, then they grew even more orange.  It was fun watching them but eventually we wanted to cook them.  So I made this meal with rice to help with the burn.  If you're sensitive to very hot foods you can make this with whatever peppers you like.  In this recipe I roast and seed the peppers, this helps the flavor and cuts the heat a bit since much of it is found in the seeds.

Leeks and Chiles in Green Rice by Future Relics Pottery
Leeks and Chiles in Green Rice

Ingredients:

3 Cups vegetable stock
3 - 5 chiles (depending on size)
1-2 TBS olive oil
1 1/2 cups white rice of your choice
4 medium leeks
kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 Cup cilantro
1/2 cup parsley
4 oz queso fresco, cubed
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

Char the chiles over a flame then, using tongs, drop them into a plastic bag to steam for about 15 minutes.  Wearing rubber gloves to keep the hot pepper oils off your fingers, de-skin and seed the pepper then chop finely.

Chop the whites and some of the green parts of the leeks.  Set aside.

Heat a dutch oven then add the oil and rice.  Cook over medium high heat for approximately five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the leeks, chiles, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the bay leaf, and the vegetable stock.  Cook for a few minutes then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes depending on your rice.

In a food processor or blender puree the cilantro and parsley with a little bit of water or vegetable stock.  You want it to be a bit thin but do not add more than 1 cup of water or it will get soupy.

When the rice is done stir in the puree and the cheese.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

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

Friday, October 3, 2014

Kaboodle Home

Some stores are just really cool and fun to explore.  Kaboodle Home in East Atlanta Village is one of those.  It's got an interesting mix of antique furniture, gifts items, and art.  I'm really proud to say that my art is now included in this store.

The owner, Michael, is a super nice guy who really knows what he's doing and has a great eye.  I have loved visiting this store for years, even before I moved into the neighborhood.  It's one of those places where you know you're always going to find something different.  It's a great place to find a unique gift for your friends, family, or yourself.

Display of Lori Buff's Pottery at Kaboodle Home in East Atlanta Village
Pottery Display at Kaboodle Home
Being so close to my home and studio means convenience also, and not just for me but for customers as well.  Not everyone wants to come down to the studio.  My hours are by appointment only and some people just don't always know when they are likely to arrive here.  If they order something and I can leave it in the store, that gives them time to come by at their convenience.  I love being able to offer that option.

So next time you're in East Atlanta Village stop by Kaboodle Home on Flat Shoals Ave and tell Michael I sent you.

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