Category Archives: ceramics

i find happiness in dreaming

I find happiness in dreaming. One thing that drives A. crazy is when we’re on a trip — an amazing trip where we’re kayaking in Costa Rica past sea turtles — and I’m so full of life and excitement, I say, “Where can we go NEXT?” I get it, I also like to live in the moment especially while life is good — and the people we love are doing well. But sometimes I can’t help myself — thinking about what’s next is a bubbling up, my-cup-runneth-over feeling.

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next: What’s my next goal, what can I get involved in, where can I find the community I’ve been longing for. I don’t have answers, but here’s a list of places I’d love to go and dreams I’d love to fulfill. Some of these ideas come from friends who have lived them.

  • An artist’s residency for pottery in Maine or Australia
  • A writer’s retreat where I’m with other writers and someone cooks for me (oh I love when people cook for me!). Bonus if it’s someplace like Italy.
  • A yoga retreat. I saw one in Bali that would be amazing.
  • A biking trip in Northern Spain
  • Working on a farm in Maine
  • Learning how to make cheese
  • Sailing in Turkey
  • Sight-seeing in the Galapagos Islands
  • A running race in Hawaii
  • Volunteering for a cause I believe in
  • Traveling to the caves and story-book settings in France
  • Seeing the Northern Lights in Norway and visiting one of my favorite potters I found on Instagram

When I was single (nearly 10 years ago, woah), if I was struggling with feeling lonely or during a breakup, I would write lists like this and it always, always cheered me up. There’s so much to do! So much to look forward to!

Speaking of pottery, I continue to see progress with each firing, and I continue to be motivated when I sell. Today, a woman I don’t know bought a mug off of Etsy and I went to my shop while the boys were occupied and I threw three more pieces in a surge of excitement.

 

I’ve also really been enjoying the kids in a profound way. In a “they are growing up and I love them within the deepest reaches of my soul” kind of way. The song “Have It All” by Jason Mraz, which is about kids leaving the nest, makes me cry (twice this week!) because even though my boys are 6, 4 and 2, it doesn’t seem that far off when they’ll leave to explore and discover themselves. I already know how deeply I’ll miss them.

This summer, the boys and I spent two weeks in Michigan, including a week up north at a lake house. Every year I get older, the more connected I feel to my home state — the people are down to earth and kind and the landscape up north on the water is serene and beautiful. And of course, many of my friends and family are there. It makes me want to have a house there to spend in the summers when A. and I are retired. One there, and maybe one in California for the winter. I don’t know where we’ll be in a few years, but every time we move and every time I travel, I’m looking, and feeling and trying to understand what I want and where I want to be. I’m dreaming. Because dreaming makes me happy.

 

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my Washington Post article and a finished shop

Hooray! My piece for the Washington Post ran last week. Last year, I mentioned what a traumatic time I had a week after giving birth to baby L., and it felt good to write out the details. I never realized how difficult it was write about medical issues — it’s so nuanced I was a bit stressed about getting the details right. But after pestering the Stanford doctor and the CDC press officer and my friend Natasha who’s an infectious disease doctor, I felt confident when the story ran.

I also have so much more to tell, like how lonely it felt to be that sick even though my husband didn’t leave my side or how I wished I had those early days with my last newborn at home instead of in the hospital or how I sometimes look at the horizon and talk to the woman who saved my life even though I don’t believe in heaven. Lots to unpack there, I know. Maybe I can work on another piece — I just have to find the right angle.

A few weeks ago, A. finished my pottery shop and I’m throwing during my spare time. I’m a bit rusty and I need a full weekend to throw and throw to get in the groove, but I think I’ll find that in the new year and will be able to re-open my Etsy shop.

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Exciting things are on the horizon! I don’t think I’ll pull off Christmas cards this year (sadly), but we’ll see. It’s hard to get a picture of the five of us. Have a happy and relaxing holiday!

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the outdoors, northern new mexico and more pots

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Last weekend, we drove up to Northern New Mexico, where one of A.’s coworkers owns 220 acres of land that’s been in his family for a century. He’s an Army guy who went to West Point and carries a gun on his hip (but I didn’t see it). It was the first time I’d chatted with his wife, and she was easy to talk to and had many qualities I admire (easy going and a problem solver).

We stayed in the house that’s been in the family for 100 years. It was built in 1898 and there are no hallways. The house feels like it’s out of the ’50s, with a TV from that era, a kitchen with a stove that has an opening to burn wood and a toilet that’s so low it was easy for my 4 year old and 2 year old to get on it.

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There were Readers Digest books from the ’40s on the shelves. The floral curtains and the smell — oh that smell — reminded me of my grandma’s and grandpa’s house in Flint, Mich.

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The next morning, we drove up to the land. Open, beautiful land where elk and bears roam at almost 9,000 feet. The leaves were starting to turn color. A. brought a newly crafted tire swing for the boys, and another guy made ribs on the slow cooker. I had decided to go home that night because L., at 2 1/2 months, is a bit young to camp — he’s already had two colds in his short life — and the temps got down to the 30s. But I enjoyed my morning/early afternoon out there and I know it was the right decision, even if I missed the ribs and the stars. Just being out in the fresh air and staying in what felt like a museum invigorated me.

Another thing that has invigorated me: I opened my Etsy shop (Erin Killian Pottery) more than a month ago and already have 15 sales and 9 good reviews. I was worried I’d be overwhelmed — you know, with three kids under 5 including a newborn — but I haven’t felt like that at all. It’s a fun challenge.

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The pace has been perfect — a sale every few days. With the two older boys in preschool three days a week, I’ve been able to get an hour in here and there to throw more.

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And I was pleased with my last firing. One of the potters at New Mexico Clay, where I do my firings, said, “They’re looking really good,” and she sounded surprised when she said, “You did all of this with a new baby?” Well, babies do sleep a lot and L. is particularly chill. (Besides a few days of gas, but gripe water helped with that.)

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I bought a book Mastering the Potter’s Wheel: Techniques, Tips, and Tricks for Potters, which has some important tips for me and is also inspiring. I keep waiting for my love of pottery to wear off and it hasn’t happened yet. So I’ll keep on throwing and keep on growing and keep on finding ways to feel invigorated. I’m sure the cool fall air will help with that, too, and getting ready for family to visit soon. Here’s to making the most of life and living in the moment. Hugs to you all.

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how I’m spending every spare minute

You know you found a passion when you spend all of your free time dedicated to it. For me, unsurprisingly, it’s pottery. My “shop” — the shed in our backyard — is in full force. I go in it daily. This weekend, A. laid bricks for a path to it through our backyard.

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I picked up my first batch of 34 pieces two weeks ago, which I had fired at New Mexico Clay. I was surprised by the results; it was completely different from anything I’ve tried before. I experimented with four clays (three stoneware, one porcelain), eight glazes and, for the first time, I had to paint on the glaze instead of dip it, which gave me wildly different results than what I’m used to. The hottest temperature I can fire at New Mexico Clay is Cone 6 in an electric kiln, by contrast my friend and teacher Lois in Ridgecrest, Calif., fired at Cone 10 in a gas kiln.

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Each time I sit down at the wheel — relaxed, focused and listening to NPR One — I see progress. The walls on my pots are more even. The feet aren’t as chunky. And I can throw bigger and higher. The feeling is incredible. When I sit down to write, I work through problems in my mind, and I have breakthroughs, too, but for me working with something physical is more immediate, and often more gratifying.

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I’m toying with buying a kiln, but I’m not sure I can yet because we’re renting and not equipped for the size I would want to buy. But it would be nice to make my own glazes, test tiles and really immerse myself in this art more fully than I already am. Someday I’ll make it happen, I’m sure of it. But for now, I’m trying one glaze combination at a time and seeing what I can create. Slowly, surely and patiently.

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