A Hobby Potter 's Blog

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

 

Episode 4 – Kiln Opening Tests – Success in Failures

Episode 4 – Kiln Opening Tests – Success in Failures

This was a wonderful growth week! I spent this week in both brainstorming and testing!

First, this Weeks Video:
2016 Hobby Potter Weekly – Season 2 – Episode #3 (8-6-16):
( I ramble a little in the journal section so you may just want to read the blog LOL !)

– Kiln Testing: I always love the element of testing that happens in ceramics and combine with that the element of the unknown that comes with every kiln run! It’s exciting yet disappointing when things don’t work out. Thankfully there was nothing I was making “on purpose” in the kiln and just accept the failed tests as just that… growth for future successes!

Challenge #1: Glaze Application: The incense burners did not turn out as I was anticipating.  I believe the challenge occurred with the layers and application thicknesses. Under the wash under the flowers was too thin and the colored glaze applied to the top was too thick.

Challenge #2; White turned out beige: Wrong Clay! I also wanted to test what my clear glaze looked like on the earthenware clay. Since I was after pure white results for the future wedding cake and bridal shower favors. I call this a successful test, even though my clay did not turn out white! It would have been a disaster if I created 180 wedding favors and they turned out a yellowish beige!

-Planning The Ceramic Wedding Favor Cake : Since my daughter and soon to be son-in-law wanted something other than a traditional wedding cake, we thought it would be fun to combine the wedding favor as part of the cake! So I’m constructing 180 ceramic pieces to hold a “dessert” that will be displayed in the shape of a wedding cake that guests will be able to take home with them! This week was the beginning stages.

The challenge was determining how much space and what size I would need for the cake form to work out. A rough “guess-timate” I came up with was approximately 120 pieces sitting on a the round table and 60 pieces on the second tier and the third tier will be their personal sized wedding cake to cut (for traditions sake). In the coming weeks we’ll see how this all pans out in actual fact LOL!!!

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-New Clay! : After the clay party and seeing my above test results, I was able to talk to Sandra Veneman (Ceramic artist & Co-Owner of The Chartreuse Muse Art Gallery), about a finding a pure white clay. She recommend the clay and clear glaze they use. Amaco’s Versa Clay & Duncan’s Pure Brilliance. It is an earthenware clay, but can be fired up to Cone 5. I just now read the description and it says it’s made for children in the classroom…so their must be something very forgiving about it. Went out, bought the clay and started to throw with it to make the Bridal Shower favor cups….LOVE IT!!! Let’s see if it really comes out white!

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-Just for fun! : I took some time off camera and made a few pieces just for the fun of it! After all …I’m a “hobby potter” and as a hobbyist we are all free to do what we want with our hobby! A small sculpture pitcher and a sushi tray!

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And with this I’ll close! Hope you enjoyed the video and will see you next time!

Enjoy your clay play!!!

~ Tammy Jo

Episode 3 – It’s A Clay Party! – Back In the Studio…Trimming Bowls & Lots of Wash Glazing

Episode 3 – It’s A Clay Party! – Back In the Studio…Trimming Bowls & Lots of Wash Glazing

Back for another week inside & outside the pottery studio and I’m journaling my projects, progress and learning experiences (both the good & bad)!

This Weeks Video
2016 Hobby Potter Weekly – Season 2 – Episode #3 (8-6-16):

– A Clay Party! : The week started of great as I ventured outside my studio for a fun ceramic adventure at the “Chartreuse Muse Art Gallery” in Modesto, CA. I celebrated the birthday of my artist friend Nicole Slater, along with her girlfriends, by enjoying a class on building luminaries (wonderfully taught by Ceramic Artist & Co-Owner of the gallery Sandra Veneman)!  Being surrounded by other people all chatting and playing with clay together was definitely  a new exciting experience! I got so immersed in what other people were making I actually forgot to get a posterity photo of what I made(I’ll share it when it’s finished! 🙂  I learned a new perspective on hand-building cylinders and loved the fact I had to get creative without all my usual studio tools!  I’d recommend it for everyone!

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On the Wheel – Trimming & Marble Textures:  The bowls made in last week’s episode needed a trim, so I jumped on the pottery wheel to finish things up. They did get a little more dry than I like, but was still able to trim. This brown stoneware reclaimed clay is amazing for special effects! Because it was reclaimed using remnants of the previously pugged white stoneware and also had some sculpture clay thrown in, the trimming results are always unique. With the added chunks of white clay, it trims out to an interesting marbled texture. Sadly it’s 15 pound away from extinction as I’ve run out and there is no way to recreate this formula exactly. Thankful and excited about these bowls.

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–  Glazing & Testing: Opened the bisque load of projects worked on in past episodes. The pieces were low fired (bisque fired) to Cone 04 in my Skutt Kiln – KM1018.

Hobby Potter Weekly - Episode 3 20160804_151024

Actually, If I look at the pieces and glaze work….everything is TESTING. The incense burners and small bowls were a test, the glaze work (combinations of colors and the different wash effects)…were also all tests! I can’t wait to see what new things I’ll learn from the next kiln opening!  Note to self: “Tammy Jo, you need to grind and reapply kiln wash to your shelves…they need some T.L.C (Tender Loving Care)!”

Thanks for watching and please feel free to comment, I’d be happy to hear from you!

Enjoy the clay!

Tammy Jo

 

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