May Day May Day!!!! Peters Valley Open House and Studio Tours

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May Day can either mean May 1st,  a day to celebrate or  May Day May Day a distress signal.    Thankfully in my case it was a celebration, as in my line of work it could have gone either way.  Yesterday was the Open House and Studio Tours event at Peters Valley Craft Center and I was asked to fire the raku kiln as part of the festivities.

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Sharon Pflug-Moench (left) and I (right) doing the heavy lifting at the Peters Valley Raku kiln


Knowing my schedule would only permit me to make enough ware for 1 or 2 loads I reached out to teacher, potter, and good friend Sharon Pflug-Moench to make ware and join me in the effort.  She did not disappoint.  We had enough work between us for 6 loads, a full day of firing fun!


Sharon aka Lucy and me, aka Ethel with the ware waiting to be fired


Caught Instagramming- red handed!

Sharon and I are the clay version of Lucy and Ethel.  We’re soft-hearted tough cookies.  We work well together.  We get into scrapes.  We generate alot of laughs. To temper us and provide support were my husband Bill and her husband Paul- Ricky and Fred, although none of us could decide who was who of that pair.

True to form, like every other time I have raku fired at Peters Valley, it poured rain all day long.  You can set your watch to it.  You want rain?  Call me, I’ll either schedule an outdoor picnic or a raku fire at Peters Valley.  I’m so used to it I don’t think I’d know what to do if the sun was shining.

Joining us in the ceramic studio were director Bruce Dehnert, his wonderful wife Kulvinder Dhew, and fellow potters throwing on wheels, including Linda Garrabrandt of MudSlingers Pottery Works.


Kulvinder Dhew arranging Bruce Denhert’s work for sale, while Linda Garrabrandt of MudSlingers Pottery Works throws clay in the background

Visitors came and went and pots went in and out of the kiln.


Vases fresh from the kiln “steaming” until cool to the touch

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I was nervous about firing hot and fast in a kiln set up differently than my own, but it’s alittle like riding someone else’s horse:  the basics are the same I just had to learn its nuances and how to get along with it.  Everything worked out fine and the kiln saints and devils smiled upon us.  The pieces survived the firings, the glazes came out great and the humans came out of the experience unscathed, just filthy, tired and wet, but very very happy.


In terms of kiln saints, I brought the heavy artillery: St Michael the Archangel, Pinocchio and the little devil who, if the sun were shining as he is solar powered, would be dancing a little jig

I had the good fortune to meet many people touring through the studios, show my work, eat a great meal from a food truck (fish tacos with the most divine fries!) and even get interviewed by a reporter at the NJ Herald.  Look at me, I wound up the lead article in their on line edition the following day!

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For my next Peters Valley trick I will be teaching the 3-day raku workshop Raku Rodeo the first weekend in June.  Get out your umbrellas and galoshes and come fire with me!


Studio coming and goings, January 2016

7 blank canvases screaming for decoration.

7 blank canvases screaming for decoration.

Being away from my studio for long periods of time feels like holding my breath underwater for way too long, only instead of my lungs, I feel like my soul is going to burst.  Life has had me out and about, selling at holiday craft fairs and on line, spending time with friends and family for the Christmas and New Years holidays, resuming my teaching gig in glass fusing at the museum, and doing the big time suck known as working on the computer.  I finally got to throw some clay around last week.

Usually even though I’m away from clay, projects are fermenting in my brain.  I’ve been trying to work out another sculpture for my Ex-Voto series in my head, with not alot of luck.  So I just went into the clay bin and got busy on the wheel.  Sometimes that’s all it takes to get unstuck.  I took a workshop over the summer and was so impressed by everyone else’s prowess at the wheel that I resolved to hone my skills a bit, so my first exercise was bottles using 3 to 5 pounds of clay.  It was fun and I got 7 out of 8 balls for my troubles, not bad for a long drought.

I put them in the wet box and let them keep to ponder the next step.  I have some new raku glazes that I think would look great on a bottle, but, these were just too plain, like blank canvases begging to be painted!  So I saved a couple and decided to spice up the rest.  I’ve got a glaze pallet of really wild runny glazes that break and change color depending on where they run and pool, so I broke out my texture tools, made some slip and went alittle wild.

The barnacle fairy visited the studio yesterday.

The barnacle fairy visited the studio yesterday.

I’m excited for the next step and my wheels are already turning for more forms and styles.  I hope to raku or luster strike fire as much as I can, because I’ll be teaching a raku workshop at Peters Valley the first weekend in June and I want to practice.  It’s so nice to be in the clay again, I feel like my soul can breathe again, phew!

Like I said, I’m teaching glass fusing again at the Montclair Art Museum Yard School of Art.  I have a wonderful group of students this winter, a mixture of returning students, advanced, intermediate and beginners.  It’s a thrill to see what they do with the glass and I try so hard to fire everything with care.  I have a gremlin that lives in my kiln that loves to play tricks on my firings, from sprinkling kiln wash on the glass ware while it’s molten to over or under firing very reliable firing schedules.  I’m happy to report that rather than ruin my student work, the little scamp only ruined 2 of my own trays.  I swear I could hear him giggling behind the kiln when I lifted the lid.

The kiln gremlin attacked my cheese trays- blisters and bubbles where sparkles should be, little scamp!

The kiln gremlin attacked my cheese trays- blisters and bubbles where sparkles should be, little scamp!

Finished student work, at least they escaped the mischief of the kiln gremlin!

Finished student work, at least they escaped the mischief of the kiln gremlin!

Student work about to be slumped into dishes and trays.

Student work about to be slumped into dishes and trays.

Oh it’s great to be back in the studio, it’s going to be a wonderful new creative year!