A Hobby Potter 's Blog

How to Teach Yourself Pottery Making- Self-Taught vs Self-Directed

How to Teach Yourself Pottery Making- Self-Taught vs Self-Directed

 

What an amazing pottery journey this has been!
January 1, 2011 is the date I consider to be the beginning of my “Hobby Potter” life. It’s when I got serious about clay and began creating YouTube videos to “direct myself” (learn) pottery making and ceramics. 2018 marks 7 YEARS ! Along the way I’ve made some beautiful friendships, learned a lot (with still more to be learned) and have tremendously enjoyed this clay journey!

Self-Taught vs Self-Directed:  Before sharing the process I use to grow in my pottery practice, I feel the need to clarify some terminology. “Self Taught” means you had no help what-so-ever from others, and learned techniques completely on your own. “Self-Directed” means you charted your own course of learning and used resources from professionals to learn the craft. Since I’ve never officially taken a pottery class and I learned primarily through YouTube videos, books and suggestions/critiques from fellow potters who I see as mentors, I’m a Self-Directed potter!

From time to time I get asked this question?
“”How did you teach yourself to make pottery?” or “How do you know what you want to make?”  Here is the formula I use and still follow that helps me learn and improve my skills:

 

  1. Choose Projects To Help You Learn a Specific Technique or Skill (such as throwing a cup, handbuilding a pitcher, texturing, mixing glazes…etc.). Books are great, but it’s also crucial to see live demonstrations. There are some amazing teachers out there and even actual online pottery classes (ClayShare with Jessica Putnam-Phillips) that can guide you.  Being in community with other potters and getting live critiques will also help you improve more quickly.
  2. Set a Goal with Actionable Steps: I chose projects to accomplish a task: (365 Days of Clay Cups, or  30 Bowls, 30 Days, 30 Techniques or 1lb of Clay 25 Ways). This helped me to compartmentalize my learning experiences and not feel like I was all over the place. (Example, I wanted to learn to throw on the pottery wheel with small cracks of time. So I decided to throw one cup a day for an entire year. It gave me a goal and also assured enough repetition in order to grow.)
  3. Figure out a way to keep repetitive practice fun…this is HUGE on my list! It’s got to be fun if it’s going to get done! (I’m no fan of doing the same thing twice, but I do understand that I can only improve with repetitious efforts). How did I get it done?  The 365 Day cup project allowed me to throw on the pottery wheel everyday, but I made every cup look different so it didn’t feel repetitious.
  4. Be accountable to somebody: (pottery group, Facebook friends, the YouTube verse ;). When I had no one around me that worked with clay, I started my Hobby Potter YouTube Channel  to create a community where I had none.
  5. Share What You’ve Learned:  My videos are not “instructional” and were never meant to be, but hopefully they are “educational” in the sense that  other newbie potters can see another newbie pottery taking chances. If what I’m personally learning is shareable (good or bad) it becomes a reference of realistic application to someone in the learning process.

    Learning & Planning Process

Without the ability to be in a classroom setting and gleaning from those sitting around you, “real deal” videos can be helpful to beginners who might become discouraged if a project doesn’t turn out “picture perfect”.  Some of my biggest disasters go into the kiln and come out as some of my greatest successes. I’ve realized no matter how long I’m into clay, the exciting mystery of a kiln opening is like Christmas, because you never know what can happen!

I would encourage everyone looking to grow in pottery go for it! Figure out what you want to learn, embrace the journey and relax your way through!

2018 is a brand new year of discovery! Let’s get out there and enjoy the earth (as the mud on our hands 😉

Blessings!

Tammy Jo

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“The Lost Art of Celadon” – Creating the Sculpture

“The Lost Art of Celadon” – Creating the Sculpture

For those that follow my Hobby Potter video journal or through Facebook & Instagram, you’ll remember my excitement about creating a sculpture piece for the “Pacific Currents” exhibition at the Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, CA. This juried show will be presented in conjunction with the Gordon Brodfuehrer Collection of Japanese Ceramics from October 18,2017 -January 21, 2018.  The final date for submission is tomorrow, and at the time of this blog the submissions have not been juried (so I don’t know if it’s even been accepted). My piece, “The Lost Art of Celadon – From Goryeo to Joseon”

Developing My Concept:

It would have been easy enough to just throw a tea bowl on the wheel and call it a day, but I really wanted to use this experience to “grow me” as an artist. This could only be done by creating a sculpture (and grow me it did!). Because I really wanted to explore the “perfectly imperfect”, I first went to what was “perfect” in historical Korean Celadon Pottery. No denying their development of celadon during the Goryeo Dynasty (913-1392) was the most notable ceramic related achievement. So this was something I wanted to incorporate into the sculpture. After doing some study on the history of celadon, I found that the art of creating the fine celadon pieces became a dying art at the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

 

Park Bo Gum playing a prince of Joseon

The Form – A “Gat”
I also wanted the sculpture to be unique, which means moving away from standards such as vases and other functional forms. Confession time,  I’m a closet K-drama watcher (South Korean dramas), the historical variety being some of my favorites! Their dramas host a beautiful variety of ceramics, but the form that caught my eye was actually the “Gat”, which is a hat worn during the Joseon Dynasty.  This was usually worn by middle class or married men to show their status (alternatively in K-drama’s the “disguised king”usually leaves his palace in one of these “gats” to roam freely among his people 😉

 

The Imagery – Irworobongdo

The inspiration for the designs came from the artwork found in the “Irworobongdo” . This is a six panel screen that sets behind the kings throne, showing 5 peaks and the representations of the King (sun) and Queen (moon). If I could bring this element into my piece, it would be perfect for pulling together the whole concept of the lost art of celadon and the changing of the two dynasties.

The Symbolic Plan:  To cover the (Joseon) “gat” with a smooth coat of (Goryeo) celadon, using the imagery of the Irworobongdo (to represent the changing of the two dynasties). Antique it with India ink and draw attention to the small cracks that usually develop in the celadon.

 

Here is the “Making of” Video

 

Journal Notes on Making the Sculpture & The Take Away

This was a personal growth journey for me, in technique and also in dealing with the elements.

The most enjoyable? 
Creating the Irworobongdo imagery! I did it all in one sitting …and could have sat there for hours creating that landscape, it was so relaxing.

Biggest concern I didn’t need to worry about?
Cracking. It was challenging keeping everything drying slowly in 107-110 degree weather to avoid issues (we wanted no cracking, warping or detachment)!  No matter how much I reassured myself I did all the steps properly, I kept worrying it would crack while drying, or bisque firing, or glaze firing. End result …100% passed without a single crack!

Biggest mishap? The celadon.  I should have known better, the True Celadon is the most unstable, finicky glaze I own (Amaco realized this and has since created a more user friendly version of celadon). The final kiln result (at first) was very disheartening. The glaze came out blotchy and dripping…not what I was hoping for. Since I was planning to use the India ink on the cracks, I decided to apply it more liberally on the lighter portions of the piece to antique those areas and make it look aged.

The biggest mishap was the biggest blessing! Since the main concept of the piece was to show the lost art of celadon, with the relationship of this loss and the two dynasties, it seemed more appropriate for the celadon NOT to be perfect! It’s imperfections became it’s biggest voice, and the defining, most obvious part of the piece. The art of celadon was LOST…and on this piece it really shows!

When all is said and done, I ADORE this sculpture! It started out as a fun project and became so much more. I didn’t write all the perspectives I pondered while creating this piece, but I hope that people can look at it from their own perspective. Whether this sculpture gets accepted or not has really become irrelevant. It’s now a landmark in my journey in clay, with many lessons learned…and with that…until next time!

Thanks for being here & God Bless!

Tammy Jo 

 

 

Re-Invigorated by the “Rejects” – A Ceramic Underdog Story

Recently I made a stop at my local supply store only to learn some disappointing news, the store will be closing soon. Their old stock of art supplies, ceramic glazes and clays were marked down to unbelievably low prices. So I did what any logical artist would do, I grabbed a basket, called my artist friends and let the shopping begin!  After picking through the prime clays and glazes, I felt comfortable that I was being frugal and had only bought what I needed.
Just a few weeks later I checked into the store again. A clerk tiredly described clearing out the warehouse and the thought of having to ship back and get rid of a troubling pallet of old, over-hard clay. (Remember, my friends and I had already picked through for the good stuff ..so these were repeatedly rejected!). It gave me a vague flash back of choosing teams in elementary school. These boxes were the non-athletic kids, waiting against the wall hoping to not be the last one picked.
Feeling an adventure coming on ( I’m also a sucker for the underdog),  I offered a solution to the clerk, ” I don’t really use this kind of clay, and it’s pretty hard…but if no one else wants it I guess I can take it home.”  I could live with or without it, but by the end of the day, I had a $1200 pallet of clay in my studio, for the price $37.84. Thanks to a suggestion from my clay buddy, Pam Ackles , I tried adding a few cups of water to some of the bags, then let it sit for a week. Surprisingly … the clay was PERFECT for use!

These “misfit” boxes of clay have become my new joy and inspiration. Re-invigorated by the fact they were once passed over and rejected, gives me a strange desire to make them into something lovely. To give them my time and attention, create something precious and create a blessing with these blessings, I’ll have made the best purchase of the year!

Why am I Still a “Hobby Potter”?

Why am I Still a “Hobby Potter”?

Pottery For the Joy Of It!

LOVE this time of year! April is the Stanislaus Artist Open Studio Tour and I still get just as excited as if it were my first time! As I gear up to receive visitors,  I find myself reflecting on what people would like to experience in my studio.

During the tour I’ll share the pottery making process, throw on the pottery wheel and create a mosaic “guestbook” with all the names of my visitors. Sometimes I’ll answer technical questions from first timers  and the more experienced art seekers will inadvertently ask the same question, ‘Why do you call yourself “Hobby Potter”?

It seems since my skills have moved beyond the basic, people are concerned my artwork will be devalued because of the term “hobby”.  True, a respected title is important and it has crossed my mind on occasion to revamp my YouTube channel or materials and just use my name.  But then I remember why I started this journey and why it’s still relevant to me today.

Let me explain!

hob·by / noun
1. an activity done regularly for entertainment, joy or pleasure.

From forming to glazing to sharing, every aspect of pottery making thrills me! It’s all about keeping things light and joyful. I do take my ceramics seriously and enjoy the hard work it involves along with the elements of the unknown. So for me, the term “hobby” helps me continue in a “spontaneously creative” mindset.  It’s the core reason I work in clay….creativity at my own pace, in my own way.

There is a freedom to pursue what moves me, a “no boundaries” rule to play with the ever-changing ideas that inspire me. Because I started my whole clay journey after a long stint of serious illness, I also wanted to continue to feel like I had permission to pause when I needed to and resume when I was ready. Basically it means I am not a “production” style potter. Repetition of any magnitude is just not in my ENFP nature, so I carry a tremendous amount of respect for production potters who do what I can not! My concluding focus will be creating pieces that exude my enthusiasm for clay (even it it’s not in high volumes.)

 Being a “Hobby Potter” is not a “skill level”, or a definition of work quality or even a lack of ambition to do “serious ceramics”.

Hobby Pottery is my pursuit of creative freedom that fires me up with anticipation the second I step out into my studio!

So with that in mind, I’m heading out to Spring Clean the studio for guests, determined to remain just a “Hobby Potter”! 

Please Help Me “Live Vicariously”- NCECA Conference

Time for a role reversal! Often times I read comments on my YouTube videos where people say they are “Living Vicariously” through my online pottery adventures. This has always made me feel a bit sad but also extremely responsible in sharing what I do, because I realize not everyone is able to experience these things. I’ve always hoped that my hobby journey could inspire others to find their own way in clay. Of course it’s still exciting  to experience it through video, but there is just nothing like being there living it yourself!

NCECANational Council on Education for Ceramic Arts!
Today marks the beginning of the 2017 NCECA Conference in Portland, OR (March 22-25, 2017) … and unfortunately I’m having to miss it! I’m beside myself as I start to see posts on Facebook and Instagram about the event…but I’m taking heart in the fact people are posting their experiences!

Help Me “Live Vicariously” through all of your experiences! If you have a blog, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Periscope channel where you will be posting updates…feel free to comment on this blog (or where this blog is posted), so I too and can live your adventure! It won’t be the same as being there, but I will for sure be grateful to have experienced it through your eyes!

 

2017 Stanislaus Family Justice Center – “Art of Justice” Art Pieces

2017 Stanislaus Family Justice Center – “Art of Justice” Art Pieces

I love, love, love doing this event each year! The Stanislaus Family Justice Center “Art of Justice” Event is the annual fundraiser for their programs. Using the artwork and inspirational words of the children healing in this program, local Stanislaus County artists create and donate art to help raise money for their useful services.

The Stanislaus Family Justice Center (SFJC), offers compassion and hope for victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking with collaborative services in one safe place. We have a number of agencies located on site which offers these services at no cost.

Here are the art pieces I created this year and their synopsis! The event will be March  2017  If you would like to see the making of these pieces you can watch it here on Youtube!
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Repairing After A Storm

The inspiration behind this piece is a combination of the young artist’s words and color choices. Instead of focusing on Lillian’s stress, I chose to do a representation of the healing that comes after the storm.

When I saw Lillian’s piece, I envisioned the darkness one feels after being emotionally “ripped apart”. It would feel hollow, and possibly be blown out with holes and battles scars. Yet even with these wounds, you would still see the beautifully textured remnants of a unique life beginning to repair.


The color purple can create feelings of serenity or calmness, while yellow is seen as the energizer. Since Lillian’s artwork included both of these colors, I chose to use them in my sculpture as “Band Aids” to characterize being “put back together”. Both healing and rejuvenating for growth.

Perfectly Imperfect, this piece is a snapshot in the process of transformation from broken to beautiful.

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Character Traits of the ULTIMATE Super-Hero

“Favorite Super Hero? No, I don’t have one. Wait…Yes! Jesus is my Super Hero” ~ Mia Age 8

 

When we say “Super Hero” we may think of Spiderman, Ironman, Batman, but Mia was having none of that. My guess is because she knows they are make believe. After much thought and consideration she realized, “Wait…Jesus is my Super Hero”. She chose the real deal!

Words on Vase: “Truthful – Disciplined – Savior – Gentle – Super – Virtuous – Justice – Joy – Prayer – Dependable – Protector – Moral – Love – Faithful – Bold – Hero – Forgiving – Peace –  Sincerity – Generous – Safe – Courageous – Patient – Humble – Survivor – Saves – Wise – Defender

It got me thinking about the “real live” characteristics of Jesus the Ultimate Super Hero. These traits are surrounding this vase. I also chose to use the rainbow of colors in Mia’s artwork and make it a joyful piece. This shows the movement and excitement she must have felt when realizing she had the ultimate protector looking out for her!

 

 

A Paradigm Shift! – A New Direction!

Paradigm Shift“A fundamental change in approach or underlying assumption”

I’ve spent the last 2 days trying to create a blog post to share the BIG changes I’ll be venturing into with my ceramic art journey! Pages upon pages were filled with excited chatter describing how it all came to together, why I’m making the changes and also how special this move is going to be for me. Definitely more information than you’d want to read (ha, ha)! So here is my final attempt at stripping it all down (still pretty lengthy) to give you the gist of this artistic renovation.

“You are under no obligation to be the same person you were 5 minutes ago!”
~ Unknown

Over the past year I’ve taken on clay projects that were substantially more personal and meaningful to me (such as my daughter’s wedding, and a mini-luminary series called “Brokenly Beautiful”). Not necessarily grand in scale for “publicity exposure”, but most definitely pivotal to me in terms of expressive pieces that touched my heart, and the hearts of others.

These experiences helped me discover that in order for my continued clay journey to remain personally fulfilling, I needed to be creating both art and functional pieces which resonated deeper emotional purpose. Something a little more closely in line with my value system. It had to feel important!

A while back my daughter asked me to take the Myers & Briggs personality styles test online. We both laughed  when we discovered how accurate it pegged me! I am what they call an ENFP personality,  Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving. Why is this significant and why bring it up now? Because it brought home how closely my “purpose” was triggering me to make changes I’d been contemplating to keep my creative spirit alive!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”        –Maya Angelou

I started asking myself, “What if I could create something that would touch another person’s heart? Could I help them heal a hurt, find confidence, feel encouraged or just give someone a laugh to start their day?” These thoughts kept flooding my mind and would give me a jolt of adrenaline, then at the same time an incredible feeling of peace. These questions also produced so many creative ideas my journal is exploding! Whether through my own words or through a piece of pottery, sharing these concepts in my art feels like my paradigm shift .  So here it is!

Coming March 1, 2017 
“Every Day Pottery with an Extraordinary Message”

EXPRESSives TM is an inspirational line of handmade ceramics combined with uplifting messages of strength, truth and healing! Through the use of everyday pottery, these themes of hope give you daily “brain food”…in a 3D way!

“Your life is an expression of what you think and what you believe”!

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ex.pressive
  1.  to express emotion through words or actions


EXPRESSives
 , will be my new handmade product line of functional-ware that will be “wrapped in words” expressing positive, uplifting emotional messages. Inspired by the gratitude cup (#365) from the “365 Days of Clay Cups” project, each piece will be unique and different, in form and color, but cohesive in the style of “Perfectly Imperfect”. I’ll be sharing the inspiration behind each themed work and hopefully be able to share a bit of my heart in each piece!

Be expecting to see progress and changes near the end of February and the listing of the initial releases in my store on March 1st! I’ll keep y’all updated throughout the month of February with progress updates on social media with an updated video!

A little nervous with excitement …but always in a good way!

Warm Blessings to All!

~ Tammy Jo