Tag Archives: ceramics

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, 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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Filed under birth, ceramics, creativity, happy, health, Uncategorized

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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Filed under camping, ceramics, family, friends, great outdoors, inspiration, pottery, the great outdoors, Uncategorized

on healing, exercise and pottery

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It’s been six weeks since my surgery, and I feel back to normal. Well, as normal as you can feel with a newborn. Luckily, L. is a decent sleeper. Usually. OK, last night not so much, when he was up at 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. But three nights ago my little 7 week-old gave me a 6-hour stretch, which had me dancing to “Foot Loose” around my living room. (Another exaggeration, I can’t help myself today.)

I’ve been walking and I tried to run a few days ago. That wasn’t happening. It’s hard enough to run after a pregnancy, but now I have a surgery to contend with, so it will take more time. I’m trying to be patient.

We took the boys rock climbing in the Jemez mountains yesterday and A. set an easy climb for them (and me), but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Rock climbing is harder when you’re carrying extra weight and I have 10 more pounds to go. But it was lovely being in nature — trees! Fresh air! Sunshine! I’ve missed day trips like this.

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In other news, I opened an Etsy shop to sell my pottery. I was simply investigating how to do it, and then suddenly it was done. I went with Erin Killian Pottery so it’s easy to find. My sister-in-law is a graphic designer (check out her stuff at Beth Killian Design) and she whipped up a logo for me.

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I haven’t formally announced the shop to family and friends yet — I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more items. I’ve read it’s good to have 20-30 items to start and I have 16 up there. Who knows, that might be enough. On Saturday, I started to throw again for the first time in two months. I made four mugs and three small ring bowls and felt relaxed and in my element. I’m pretty sure I think better when I’m throwing clay. A. said, “Look at you, you’re filthy!” and I nodded and gave him the biggest grin. It feels good to be back to myself again.

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throwing, throwing, throwing: my love of pottery keeps growing

I’ve mentioned before that I’m hooked on pottery, but this weekend it reached a fevered pitch as I tried to replicate vases and mugs from my last batch.

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My lovely teacher Lois Hinman (click to see her work!) in Ridgecrest, Calif., always told me that she started selling her pots (decades ago!) because it’s an expensive hobby and she couldn’t take the money from her family. I’m starting to feel that way, too — each firing (including bisque and glaze) is close to $100, not to mention the clay and the glazes. And we don’t have enough cupboard space for all that I’m making!

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So, now I’m thinking about how to sell — where, what that means, coming up with a plan, etc. Of course, I’m also 28 weeks pregnant  (entering that third trimester, yeesh!) and slowing down physically, so that will keep me from doing it anytime soon.

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But, I like the idea of creating a plan and having inventory for when I’m ready to enter a show or put pieces up on Etsy. Maybe I’ll do it sooner than later, but given how tired and achy I’m starting to feel, I doubt much will happen before baby boy no. 3 is at least three months old.

IMG_7025What I love about the process is not only the physical act of throwing and creating useful, beautiful things, but also the challenge — starting a “business” is scary. And entering a show is scary. And I don’t even have a kiln yet. Once I get a kiln (after we move out of our rental) I can start to mix glazes. There is always, always more to learn with this craft. And I have a long way to go to be really good.

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But the bottom line is I love it and that passion isn’t going away.

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If you are a potter or artist with a small business and have any tips or suggestions along the way, I’d be grateful!

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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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