Category Archives: pottery

a new batch of pottery (and relief that i can throw again)

A few days before I pick up my next batch of pottery, I have that burst of excitement I used to feel as a kid the night before Christmas. I push the feeling away so that it doesn’t consume me, but I really love seeing how the glazed pieces transform into usable dishes. They shrink so much that they’re often unrecognizable — I have to check the bottom for my initials to be sure they’re mine.

Earlier this year, I was feeling out of sorts and frustrated on the wheel because I had a newborn and was getting zero sleep and I felt like I forgot how to throw. I couldn’t make a mug, and I felt so frustrated, I wanted to crush the wet clay and slop it into the recycle bucket. This session, I finally felt better. In general, I feel more like myself: I’m getting (a little more) sleep; I’m editing confidently; I have my body back (mostly). I’m still tired — but it feels good to be (almost) back.

photo 2-16


photo 3-7

photo 1-15



Filed under pottery

my pottery mojo


When CP was three weeks old, I started the next pottery class. I knew I was exhausted, but my dear pottery teacher gave me a slight nudge. “How about you pay for half of a class?” she offered. “Just come when you can.”

That first evening, I left CP and CM with A. and my in-laws. I was a half hour late. It was the witching hour, so I was nervous about leaving a crying baby.

And here’s what happened: I forgot how to throw. I couldn’t center the clay and I felt cloudy and woozy. My body and mind were way more exhausted than I realized. I was putting everything into my little one and I was still recovering from giving birth.

“I lost my mojo!” I told Lois, panicked.

I usually make 15-20 pieces during a class. This time I made seven. My goal was to throw mugs, and I couldn’t form it into the right shape.

When it comes to creating art, I knew I had to be flexible and forgiving. So instead I learned how to throw a lid and I practiced throwing a plate.

And I gave myself the gift of pursuing a passion during a time when I’m giving so much to others.


1 Comment

Filed under pottery, Uncategorized

the danger, thrill of raku firings

DSC_4980This weekend, I experienced my first raku firings at Lois Hinman‘s private pottery studio with views of the Sierras. It’s moments like these that make me thrilled to be in the isolated desert.

Of course, I couldn’t be all that involved in the firing because of the baby inside of me — not only is the process of moving the pots from the kiln into open flames dangerous, but also the fumes and the smoke are intense. But I could take a few pictures while wearing a heavy-duty mask that keeps out chemicals (after the first firing I decided to stay inside and wait patiently).




The interesting part of raku is you have no idea what you’ll get. I glazed the vase below with imperial blue, but it often turns copper.

I made a few trivets, a few vases, a business card holder for A. (per request) and two garlic holders. (I also threw some bowls, but decided to high-fire those so that we can put them in the dishwasher.)

Here are my favorite two pieces:


DSC_5081Up next (post-baby): Learning how to throw lids.


Filed under pottery

antsy to create

Two weekends ago, about 30 artists in town — painters, wood-workers, potters — opened their studios to the public. It was to raise money for the local museum, and for the artists to show off their creations. Lois, my pottery teacher, invited three of her students to throw pots in her studio while she sold hers. She opened the floor-to-ceiling garage door so we could see the mountains on a gorgeous October weekend, and we threw pots from 9:30-5 both Saturday and Sunday. We chatted with the crowd, ate taquitos and meatballs and chips, wiped clay all over our pants and helped Lois wrap her sales.


My butt muscles hurt at the end of the day, but I learned how to throw plates and I honed my skills to throw big bowls and mugs. I threw 16 pieces, which I’ll go back to glaze in the next few weeks. And again, I walked out invigorated, like I do every time I spend my days on the wheel, chatting with wonderful women.

I said to A. that Sunday evening, on our one-year anniversary, while we gazed at the Milky Way from Robbers Roost, about 20 minutes out of town: “I could do it all day every day.” And he said, “Wow, have we found your next profession?”

I confess that I have looked into fellowships, and the closest community kiln where I could fire should I buy a wheel. I’m still not ready to pull the trigger, especially with baby no. 2 arriving in four months. Chances are, we’ll move to a bigger town after living here — with a university where I can take classes. But I do think I’ve found a hobby that I truly love.

Since then — knowing I have to wait a few months till the next class — I have an insatiable urge to create. One thing that mildly tempers it is crocheting. I made my first full-sized blanket and some baby booties, and I’m thinking of what I can do next. I’m antsy — and I’m exploring this crazy feeling and how to satisfy it.




Filed under crochet, pottery, Uncategorized

i love my bowls (and a new understanding of the creative process)

Oh my god, you guys, I picked up my pots last night at our pottery party, and can I just say that I am thrilled with the results. I’m seeing improvement! I’m seeing improvement! Not only in my throwing, but also in my glazing. It’s like the spigot, which was trickling before, has opened and I’m overflowing with creativity.


Now I’m thinking of all of the things I want to make: sushi set, cookie bowl, butter dish, plates, potters for plants, a pitcher, wall hangings, etc. Of course, our place isn’t big enough to hold everything I’m making. A. says he’ll add another shelf in a kitchen cabinet to make room for the bigger bowls. Serving bowls was my goal this time, and I did it.


This was my third class this year, and the best part of it is that I’m getting a better understanding of how slow a creative process can be. And how it’s worth it to dig in, and dig in, and dig in and get better and better. Each step is slight, so it’s hard to see progress (and to easily get frustrated), but if I compare the first class with the third class, the improvement is obvious. I also feel closer to the pottery community, and that takes time to build those bonds and prove your dedication.


Lois, my teacher and a talented local artist, has convinced me to enter a few of my pots in the county fair in October, which is something I never would have considered in D.C. I know I won’t win, but that’s not the point — the point is that I’m getting more and more involved in the creative community. It feels more natural here than in a big city. The barriers aren’t so great: the cost is lower, it’s more convenient (Lois lives a mile up the street) and it’s less competitive. Lois has also asked me to demonstrate throwing pots during the Open Studio Tours, a local event where 30-some artists open their studios to the public to raise money for the Maturango Museum. I’ll get to throw all day with two other amazing women and glaze and keep what I make — what more could I ask for?


As for the next weekly class, I’ll have to wait till next year, but I plan to channel my brimming energy into other creative endeavors.


Filed under desert, DIY, pottery, Uncategorized

funky tabletop and handle-heavy mugs

A. finished his latest piece of furniture — from decades-old wood we found in the Indian Wells Valley. This time, he experimented with shapes, and he made a hexagonal top with three legs to support it. I was skeptical of the design at first, but it turned out fantastic and it replaces the last table he made, which has been relegated from our living room to our guest room.



And I finally (finally!) am getting the hang of making mugs, though my handles are a bit too thick, which I’ll work on next class at Lois Hinman’s studio. It starts in a few weeks, and I can’t wait to practice more: I have found that pottery, as with any creative endeavor, takes hours upon hours of practice to improve. I’m seeing progress. And it’s a great reminder that it takes time — so much time — to be a master at anything.


1 Comment

Filed under DIY, pottery, Uncategorized

my new happy place


I always say that bookstores are my happy place. I miss Kramerbooks in D.C. and Unabridged in Chicago, where I’ve spent hundreds of hours collectively. The only bookstore in Ridgecrest doesn’t inspire. It’s a bit dingy and dark, the children’s area smells musty and I’ve read the majority of books marked “new memoirs” — some of them 10 years ago or more.

And then. Then I found Lois. She was selling her pottery at Santa’s Art Show at the fairgrounds in December. I asked her if she gives classes. “Yes,” she said, “I’ll email you.” Her card had her address — she lives less than a mile up the road, toward the mountains, in the heart of the desert. I stalked her house: Every time we drove out of town (I didn’t have her card handy), I’d say to A.: “I wonder if that’s where she lives.”

In January, Lois sent an email announcing her class times and said it was first come first serve. I put a check in the mailbox that evening.

The moment I walked in, I fell in love. Her studio is behind her house — off of a dirt driveway. It feels like a warehouse with high ceilings — industrial, but newly built. Immaculate and organized. She has shelves to display her pots — vases, mugs, bowls. She has partitions to display her paintings. There are six pottery wheels. There were three other women in my class (I was the youngest by far). We each bought a bag of clay. And went to it. That first night I was rusty — it had been three years since I had thrown on a wheel. It took a few tries to get the hang of it again. Lois, who I would guess is in her late 60s, is patient, kind and encouraging.

That night, I left her studio giddy. It was intensely dark out, as it is in the desert. I turned out of her driveway, music off, enjoying the silence and my deep happiness that I had found Lois.

At the end of the last class I told her: “You’ve created monster.” And I found A. in the garage, my sleeves caked with clay, and I said: “Alright, that’s it. It’s time to buy me a wheel.” (I was half-kidding, I’m not ready for the work of taking care of clay, etc., but maybe someday I will be.)

Last night, A., C. and I went to the studio for a potluck and to pick up my work. When I was describing to the group the different glazes I used, Lois piped in and said that I brighten up the studio every time I arrive. As I left last night, Lois gave me a hug and then I picked up my box of about 20 bowls. I said, “I told A. that this is my new happy place.” She smiled and said, “You make it happy.”



Filed under crafts, happy, pottery, Uncategorized

a new hobby: pottery

It’s so satisfying to take wet clumps of clay and turn them it into these. My class is over, but I’ll do it again — eventually. I know I will.

Leave a comment

Filed under crafts, pottery, Uncategorized