Friday, December 4, 2009

Sounds At The Studio, Christmas

Christmas music is that genre that you can only listen to at this time of year. I have lots of favorites and always break them out after Thanksgiving and play them constantly till the new year.

Stephen and I have like, probably most people associate some non Christmas music with the holidays.

The following "sounds at the studio" play list is a combination of traditional and non traditional holiday tunes.

I hope you enjoy this compilation when you are trimming your tree, roasting your goose, or making some pots.

Happy holidays to all of you!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Calling Cards

Today I just wanted to share some images of the new calling cards Stephen made me for the pottery. He printed some 500 of them, so they should last quite a long while. They will live in a little bowl in the pottery and be carried in my back pocket.

Stephen also produced some double sided cards for our home, the M.H. Merchant Stone House. The one side is a historic image of the house when it was first built, and the other has the information.

Anyone who makes a purchase at the pottery will get each one of these little cards, stuffed in their bowl or bag or you could just stop by and grab a few.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The First "Concrete" Workshop

One would think that since I'm a ceramic artist the first workshop to be held at the pottery would be clay related.
Close but no cigar; with the success of the concrete leaves, and my sweet mothers admiration of them. The first workshop was to be the construction and techniques of working with concrete.

My mother saw my leaves in photos and was entranced with their beauty. She wanted to see how I made them so at her home in New jersey, I purchased a couple of bags and made some concrete leaves and pots to show her.
Well that did it. That night she called her two best friends to tell them of the little demo; and all of them being extremely creative they decided they wanted to come up to Cornwallville and make their very own concrete treasures.
It was settled that they would come up in early October for a weekend of relaxation and learning.

They arrived early on a cold Saturday morning, full of energy and excitement. They barely even put their bags down before someone said " When are we going to make the leaves? ".

10 minutes later, the ladies were dressed in their " best " dirty clothes to play with concrete.
We all went down to the pottery and got to work. I sent them down to the pond to find leaves and anything else they wanted to experiment while I started to prep the area and mix the cement.

They returned with seedpods, grasses, bark and of coarse leaves.

I then showed them my techniques on how to prepare, place, and cover the leaves for their entombing in concrete. I learned all of this from trial and error of using several hundred pounds of the stuff as well as doing some online research.

Several hours later everyone made two large leaves and several pots and troughs that will be covered in a another post this coming spring. All of this making and creativity worked up a real appetite, so we went into the warm stone house for some roasted vegetable soup and savory muffins.

After lunch we relaxed by the fire and shared our experience of the day. We later went for a beautiful walk, saw some wildlife, and had an amazing dinner, before we tucked in for the night.

The next morning the crew was as anxious as I was when I first started making objects out of concrete. They said they couldn't really sleep, that they couldn't wait to see their creations. So not a second later we bundled up and headed out back and began to turn over the leaves and open up our pots and troughs.

The results were amazing, everyone had experimented in different ways with different materials giving each one of their pieces a unique touch of their own. I showed them how to clean their work and give it an aged look if they desired and then we packed up the leaves carefully in the car.
We headed back up to the house and picked them some flowers from the gardens so they could take another little piece of Cornwallville home with them.

Before we could even say our goodbye's, they all stated how much fun they had and how they couldn't wait till next time to come up to the house and create more!

This coming summer of 2010, I and the Cornwallville Pottery will be hosting various ceramic artists with different skill sets and offer various workshops covering different topics.
Camping will be permitted on the property as well as a few available rooms in the stone house. Please check back later in the spring for details! This is another great endeavor that we are taking to link the pottery and our home to the public.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pack it up, pack it in, Let it begin.

It's early November and this post begins in my studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I have been at that location for almost two years sharing it with three lovely and talented ceramic designers. It's a beautiful west facing studio with high ceilings and a view of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Since we moved upstate to Cornwallville, I have been completely absent at the Brooklyn studio.
As you know I have been busy setting up the pottery, and as winter comes and the barn doors close; it is time to set up the new studio in the stone house basement.

I went to the Brooklyn studio one morning in late October with an empty car, and the will to start again in Cornwallville. It took several trips up and down the service elevator to empty the contents of my space. Several hours later, and a deep sigh of sadness and optimism, I was ready to head north with my ceramic life.

I am truly going to miss the girls and all the inspiration, laughs, and beauty that we shared there.
It was a great time, and now it's time to open a new chapter of the book.

Thank you Lisa, Lorena and Sarah.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Concrete; The Clay Alternative

I have always been attracted to working with other materials whether drawing on wood blocks, watercolor painting, or working with paper mache.
It is in this constant curiosity of discovering new materials that my new obsession was born.

It was late summer and the gardens were in full swing. The sunflowers were beaming like sunlight, the sedums were blushing rose, and the alocasia ( elephant ears) were in full glory down by the pond. It was these massive leaves that put me into a creative frenzy.

I wanted to make large ceramic leaf platters but with my studio and tools still in Brooklyn I had to take a different coarse. Then it popped into my head CONCRETE.
I have seen concrete leaves before in magazines and garden shops and had always wanted to make my own.
So I set out to the local hardware store and bought a 60lb. bag of concrete mix and rushed home. When I got back to the house I picked some of the largest leaves I could find, and gathered an old wheelbarrow, gloves, and the hose. I then went to the back of the turkey coup and started to mix and experiment.

I only got two leaves and one pot out of the one bag, but with new pieces still hardening up I knew then that I was hooked.
The next morning I ran out back to see the results. The first leaf I turned over, the left side crumbled in my hand.
I was too eager, so went back into the house and waited a couple of more hours before I would try again.
The second time was the charm with a beautiful perfect leaf bowl as the result.
As soon as I saw this new piece I went back to the hardware store and bought 3 more bags. When I returned I went into production mode and made a dozen leaves of all shapes and sizes.

They will cure for the upcoming winter in the barn and then they will be ready for the gardens and available for customers.

I am so excited to introduce these new garden ornaments to the pottery! They are beautiful as simple objects and useful as water catching basins for the birds that visit your properties. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed making them!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Revisiting Forced Age

It has been 6 months to the day that I first set out to the misty March woods to lay my pots to rest.
It was one of my first posts; and I was quite excited for the little experiment.
To recall, I set some earthenware pots I made on the woodland floor and covered them with moss and mud to attempt to force age upon them. I would travel back there from time to time and take a peek, but not to truly investigate the results. I would wait for the 6 month time line I gave myself.

So into the now; late September woods I went.

I set the pots down in the woods near the spring creek; and a wild rose bush that's now covered in beautiful hips.

Back in March when I placed the pots, I created a stick structure over them to mark there whereabouts as well as protect them from falling debris or animals trampling them.

As I crept behind the rose bush, there was the wooden tee pee with my pots safe inside.

As you can see in the photo, some time during the summer I also put some commercial pots in the mix as well to see if the different clay body would react differently to the environment.

So i squatted down and took a closer look.

The pots seemed to happy here. They were moist with their pumpkin tones glowing. And yes moss was starting to take hold as well.

With this closer inspection I quickly realized that this type of moss; as content as it was here growing on the pots in the woods, it would not survive out of this environment.

I was looking for more of an algae looking moss that would truly bond to the surface of the pots; almost like green paint.

with this slight disappointment I started to pick up the pots one by one and give them a real examination.

A - Ha; Yes! I said to myself.

This is what I was looking for. This moss variety seemed to be the right one. As sparse and delicate as it was, over time it would colonize the earthenware surface of these little pots.

With this glimmer of success I put the the pots back down on the woodland floor; and headed back to check on my other attempt to force age by the turkey coup.

There I placed commercial pots around mid August beneath a down spout from the roof. There was large bed of moss and with this location I could check on the pots more easily and as often as I wished.

These pots took on age at an alarming pace. With their time being there for less than 2 months they were showing amazing color. That blush of green was present on all of them.

I have determined that I think my pots; when fired in the kiln were brought up to a temperature that might have been to high for the likeliness of moss to grow on them.
That high temperature sealed up the porous surface of the pots preventing the moss to truly grab hold and thrive.

This coming winter when I do make more planters I won't fire them in the kiln to such a temperature. This will hopefully make them more porous and appealing to the moss.

In addition next spring I will take half of the pots and put them back in their woodland home and the other half will be relocated to the moist ground of the turkey coups down spout.

The experiment will continue!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sounds At The Studio, Autumn

There has always been a connection for me between music and my art. I have music playing in the studio constantly; as it affects my mood, disposition, and what I am creating.

It is with this love of music and art that I have decided to post a new series titled "Sounds At The Studio". The series will give you a sampling of what I am listening to and show you some of the creative results.

This first compilation; I have been playing in the pottery while I have been creating objects out of cement. I am planning on doing a post soon on this new creative endeavor, so check back some time soon for my "concrete adventures".

For now please take a listen to this first installment of Sounds At The Studio, and let me know what your thoughts and feelings are after listening.

Please enjoy!

P.S. The first and third photos are taken of the pottery circa autumn 2008.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rural Curb Appeal

The structure of the barn looks rather stark to me at some points in time. I appreciate the architecture of my "squat tower" in the landscape, but it has always seemed plopped; as if it was dropped from the sky.

I have been going back in forth, in my head whether to plant gardens in front or not since last summer when we bought the house. One voice says to me,"the structure is beautiful on it's own, minimal is better". While the other voice says, "You're a garden designer, every structure needs a foundation planting, plus you can never have too many gardens".

So guess which voice won? Of course gardens.

I also thought this would be a good opportunity to share with you, the foundations and steps of creating a garden.

When I decided to go ahead and design the new pottery gardens, I went back to my initial design I completed over the past winter.
I would create two curved stone walls flanking the entrance of the barn and they would arch around the sides to the back.
The planting would all be shade tolerant, as the only direct sunlight that comes through the trees is for only an hour during mid-morning.

Then when I was about to execute this plan, another idea came to me.
Maybe a better option would be to have two small beds with perfectly square footprints, with lower rock walls as edging.
After sitting out in front of the pottery for an hour contemplating these designs, I consulted with Stephen. He liked both propositions, but favored the "square gardens". He mentioned the fact that around the grounds of the M.H. Merchant House, we had already had several perennial borders with sweeping curves. The square lines of the new pottery gardens would fit the architecture and create a different feeling down at the pottery.

It was settled, square it is!

I set down to the barn with the wheel barrow, two shovels, rake, and a tape measure. I measured out from the corners to 6ft. and then placed a small marker stone. With a flat spade I edged a complete square, which would be the footprint of the garden.

Then with the same spade , I scraped off a layer of roots, moss, and weeds, to a depth of 2 inches.
Now the beds were starting to take shape.

The next debate I had was, whether or not to build a stone wall to retain the new beds. The prospect of working with stone would normally be great, but the past week I just completed a new stone patio off our kitchen and I was still a little sore.
I new the walls would look great; they would give a real sharp shape to the gardens as well as adding another texture. So I just bit my lip and went into the woods and began gathering stones. Several hours later and I thought there was enough stone to start.

I start with the largest stones first with the straightest edge always facing out. I place them in a single layer and work the perimeter. Then come additional stones and so on, stone on stone, layer after layer until the desired height is complete.

When the walls were complete, I set out the next day to amend and till the new beds. I dumped 8 bags of topsoil and 1 large bale of peat moss in each bed.

Then comes the fun part, rototilling! I powered the little baby up and got to tilling, until all the different soils were incorporated.

I quickly dug up some perennials from my other shade garden and added some rocks that I found the other day in the woodland that would hold water, both for the birds and to please the eye.

The next stage was to plan in my head how the gardens should look. I sat down in front of the pottery and the new beds and began to think of all the different plants to choose from.
I new I was dealing with a deep shade type of environment, but there are so many great botanical choices out there.
After the concept was finished in my thoughts, I jotted down on a note card my "recipe list" of plant material.

The list is basically a wish list, for when I often go to garden centers to execute my plans, I always deviate and select different plants for other reasons.
The bones of the concept though tend to stay true to my initial design.

With note in hand I headed to my favorite local nursery and dropped a small fortune. It was more than I wanted to spend, but I wanted a full look, and most of the plants were on sale.
I loaded my little Subaru hatchback up with plants until some of them were hanging out of the windows.

I chose to go with a quite color pallet of burgundy, plums, hints of white and different shades of green.

The plants were selected for both their foliage color and there bloom time; so there will be something showy from spring until late in the fall.
I planted two red twig dogwoods, a few canna, and lots of hucheras, ferns, and other shade loving perennials.

With the new gardens completed they really helped the pottery become more of a destination from the road.
It just seems a bit more inviting and I think has a more comfortable feel.

In fact that day we had several visitors and even more sales.

I guess a little curb appeal can go a long way.